Both during his life and after, Jones Very’s significance as a poet has generally been understood in relationship to the American Transcendentalist movement. Of particular importance to biographers and critics has been Very’s connection toRalph Waldo Emerson, Transcendentalism’s chief spokesperson and writer. Certainly, Emerson’s sponsorship of Very resulted in the only book-length publication of Very’s poems during Very’s lifetime, in 1839, a volume which Emerson edited and for which he made the necessary contacts with a publisher. For a very short period, during the years 1838 and 1839, Very seemed to Emerson and his associates to be the epitome of the American Transcendentalist poet linked to divinity, expressing intuitive insights and truths about the universe in pure and beautiful language.
Later biographers and literary critics have been able to observe that Very’s connection to the Transcendentalists and Emerson was at best a mixed blessing. Although it resulted in early publication of his efforts, it also made it difficult to perceive that Very, at least for a short time, was a unique and powerfully mystical poet in his own right. Interestingly, many of the poems that Emerson chose not to include in his selection of poetry for Very’s first publication are the ones that now seem most central and original. Since the majority of Very’s poems are sonnets, he also has assumed importance as one of the most successful of America’s writers of poetry in the sonnet form.