Poet in the City Presents Emily Dickinson: Success is Counted Sweetest

How do we define success in the face of public opinion?

Although widely considered as one of the greatest poets in English Literature, Emily Dickinson is just as well known for being something of a proud outsider. Often typecast as a recluse, Dickinson’s choice to remain unmarried and childless was wildly radical for a woman of her time.

Instead, Dickinson chose poetry, an occupation which required her undivided attention, and with it a degree of isolation. She was bold and unwavering in this choice, and in many other aspects of her life. Never tiptoeing around difficult topics, she stood firm in her confrontation of such issues as pain, dread and death, and the startling candidness and humour with which she tackled such taboos is one of the reasons she is so well-loved today.

Through an evening of live poetry and discussion we celebrate Dickinson’s approach to finding strength in the face of critique, and explore how numerous contemporary artists have also rejected societal classifications of failure and success and instead defined their own.

Carry on the conversation about defining success with us in our post-event space. We’ll bring the popcorn, you bring the chat.

Artist biographies

Caroline Bird is a poet and playwright. Her 2017 collection, In These Days of Prohibition, was shortlisted for the 2017 T.S. Eliot Prize and the Ted Hughes Award. Her sixth Carcanet collection, The Air Year, was published this spring.

Nikita Gill is a Belfast-born poet, writer and instagrammer, and has been described as ‘one of the most successful and exciting instapoets working today’.

Amy Hollinrake is a London-based contemporary folk singer-songwriter. Inspired by feminist thought and folklore, her music weaves new ideas with old to present original and traditional material to modern audiences.

Erica Wagner was born in New York City and is a widely-acclaimed author and critic. She was literary editor of The Times for 17 years and is now contributing literary editor for Harper’s Bazaar, a contributing writer for the New Statesman, as well as writing for the Financial Times, the Economist and the New York Times.


Please note, the original date for this event was Wednesday 29 April. Due to the Coronavirus outbreak, this event had to be postponed. Please read our full statement here.