Summary of Publication is the Auction by Emily Dickinson

Summary of Publication is the Auction cover image

Emily Dickinson is one of the most famous names in English poetry and she is one of the few poets who represents American poetry. Almost all of her poems were published after her death. 

Dickinson had very clear and strong opinions about her poetry. She wrote for herself and not for some publisher. She wanted to express herself, for herself. 

Maybe this is one of the reasons why her poetry has remained relevant even after hundreds of years. While we cannot know the exact reason why she wanted her poems to be destroyed and not published, we do get some idea from her poem “Publication – is the Auction.”

Let’s take a look at the poem and then at the summary.

Publication is the Auction by Emily Dickinson

Publication – is the Auction

Of the Mind of Man –

Poverty – be justifying

For so foul a thing

Possibly – but We – would rather

From Our Garret go

White – unto the White Creator –

Than invest – Our Snow –

Thought belong to Him who gave it –

Then – to Him Who bear

It’s Corporeal illustration – sell

The Royal Air –

In the Parcel – Be the Merchant

Of the Heavenly Grace –

But reduce no Human Spirit

To Disgrace of Price –

Summary of the Poem

The poem is about how publishing one’s work is like the auctioning of the mind; an act very base and low that can only be justified if the person is extremely poor. 

But even then, the poet says that some people (including her) would rather accept death and meet their creator rather than sell their mind’s work. 

The reason why she thinks publication of one’s work is not right is because the ability to think and create, to write poems and stories is a gift of God and it should be respected. 

Being able to write is the direct gift of God and to sell it is like selling the breath that has been bestowed upon us by God. Think of selling your own breath? So why do people think of selling their intellectual work?

But even if some people decide to sell their own breath, it would still be less demeaning than selling the human spirit and disgracing it by putting a price on it.

Dickinson says that to put a price on something created by the divine gift of God and selling it is utterly disrespectful and should be avoided at all costs. 

Also, read the detailed analysis and meaning of this poem here.