is famous for her frequent use of dashes in her poetry. In earlier editions of her poems, these were edited out, but later, critics realized they were an important and distinctive part of her work. Dashes create a long pause between what comes before and after. They cause us to stop and think about what we have just read. In "Because I could not stop for Death," the dashes also mimic the bouncing, jerking quality of a carriage ride:
Because I could not stop for Death –
He kindly stopped for me –
The Carriage held but just Ourselves –
Dickinson's poems are also famous for being short and written in simple language about everyday subjects but with the use of startling images. For example, in "Because I could not stop for Death," death is personified as a polite gentleman, and the grave he takes the speaker to is likened to a house with the roof near the ground.
Motifs are images, ideas, or symbols that show up over and over in a writer's work. As in the poem above, death was an important idea that Dickinson explored repeatedly—not shying away from images of dead bodies or explorations of what death means.
Another repeated motif, this time an image, in Dickinson is the color purple, which appears in 54 of her poems. In "Blazing in gold and quenching in purple," for example, Dickinson uses purple with gold to suggest majesty, then describes a sunset with startling, lively images.
An additional motif in her poems is the female gendering of inanimate objects. The majestic sunset, for instance, in the poem above is compared to a woman:
Stooping as low as the kitchen window,
Touching the roof and tinting the barn,
Kissing her bonnet to the meadow,—
And the juggler of day is gone!
In the poem "Purple Clover" (note the purple again), clover is also described as a woman, with Dickinson using the pronoun "her":
Her public is the noon,
Her providence the sun,
Her progress by the bee proclaimed
In sovereign, swerveless tune.