American Icons: Because I Could Not Stop for Death

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How did Emily Dickinson's unusual poem about death become standard high school curriculum?

Emily Dickinson is one of those writers whose life is as famous as her writing. After Emily Dickinson died, her sister found nearly two thousand poems in her bureau, all ready for publication. In a surprising number of those poems, Emily Dickinson was writing from beyond the grave. "Because I Could Not Stop for Death," Dickinson’s fantasy of getting picked up by the grim reaper, has become standard reading curriculum in English classes across America — but it’s still a very strange work of art. For our series on American Icons, WBUR's Sean Cole — a poet himself — took a closer look at Dickinson's legendary work.