Emily Dickinson's life has become a legend. She was a reclusive figure who wrote over 1,100 poems and had only seven published during her lifetime, wrote stunning pieces about travel yet traveled only once in her lifetime, had little literary training and yet created some of the most evocative and extraordinary poems ever written, with an astonishingly visionary scope and vivid use of language. While her songs defy easy setting as deftly as they defy easy interpretation, they have nonetheless intrigued and challenged composers, and over 100 have written settings. While the best-known are Aaron Copland's Poems (12) of Emily Dickinson, Samuel Barber, Vincent Persichetti, Leo Smit, Andre Previn, Robert Baksa, Gloria Coates, John Woods Duke, Charles Griffin, Roland Leich, Jake Heggie, and William Jordan have also produced Dickinson settings. Her contributions to music have been so extensive that in 2002, the New Texas Music Works held a three-day Emily Dickinson Song Symposium, consisting of lectures, discussions, and performances. Dickinson had only one extensive absence from her hometown, when she attended the Mount Holyoke Female Seminary, but left after the first year due to ill health, returning to her home to act as her parents' housekeeper. At first, she privately distributed her poems among her friends, but eventually began to send them to publishers, with very little success. However, she corresponded with editors and literary critics about her work and continued to write and store her poems, convinced that they had literary merit that would one day be recognized.
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