They Shut Me Up in Prose
by Emily Dickinson
A poem written in 1862, first published as shown here in 1960 (footnotes in 2017).
Dickinson celebrates the freedom she enjoys within her domestic sphere, thanks to her writing of poetry.
They1 shut me up in Prose2—
As when a little Girl
They put me in the Closet—
Because they liked me “still”—
Still! Could themself have peeped—
And seen my Brain—go round—
They might as wise have lodged a Bird
For Treason—in the Pound3—
Himself has but to will
And easy as a Star
Look down opon Captivity—
And laugh—No more have I4—
1They. Variously interpreted (to mean "society," or "all the forces opposed to Dickinson's being a poet").
2Prose. Variously interpreted (to mean "writing prose" or "domestic life" or "Dickinson's father's house").
4Later Dickinson wrote a related poem, "I Dwell in Possibility" (click video link below).
"They Shut Me Up in Prose" reprinted by permission. THE POEMS OF EMILY DICKINSON: VARIORUM EDITION, edited by Ralph W. Franklin, Cambridge, Mass.: The Belknap Press of Harvard University Press. Copyright © 1998 by the President and Fellows of Harvard College. Copyright © 1914, 1918, 1919, 1924, 1929, 1930, 1932, 1935, 1937, 1942, by Martha Dickinson Bianchi. Copyright © 1952, 1957, 1958, 1963, 1965 by Mary L. Hampson. PORTRAIT Emily Dickinson. William C. North, 1846 or 1847.
CITATION INFORMATION: "'They Shut Me Up in Prose' by Emily Dickinson." Gleeditions, 3 Oct. 2017,