When I say the following name, what do you think of?
What was the first thing that popped into your head?
If you're me, it was "poet."
If you're my niece, it was "recluse."
If you're my sister-in-law, you'd call me up and ask me to answer your impromptu survey, and then you'd have far too much tact to use my answer against your own daughter. You'd never say something like, "Aha! See? Most people are going to think of her as a poet before they think of her as a recluse." Instead, you'd go about your business and let your daughter write her literature night presentation any way she wanted. Because you are a tactful and kind mother. But, you also are a curious sort and thus the informal survey. Because it's just nice to know.
And, getting back to me, being a curious sort myself, I had to ask others, too.
Ramona's answer: A poet
Betsy: A book (as in "There is no frigate like a ....")
Anne-with-an-e: A robin's nest (as in "If I can help one fainting robin unto his nest again, I shall not live in vain.")
Okay, so he was kidding. His real first thought was: Poet.
And, one other sister-in-law (I've got plenty of 'em) was asked to weigh in by the original mom in question. Her answer? Bees.
My informal analysis of the survey results is that if one is a fan of a particular Dickinson poem, or a particularly Dickinsonian theme, one will answer accordingly with the poem or theme. If one has too many favorites to name (or, if one is five years old), one will respond "poet" and will be shocked -- shocked, I tell you -- should anyone respond differently at the mention of our dear Emily's name. If one is wanting the rest of us to mind our own business, write our own presentations, thank-you-very-much, and stop bothering her, one is my niece.
Which one are you?
In closing, I'll include a Dickinson selection that seems fitting to all of the above, and especially to my niece, who was admirably unmoved by her mother's plea to reconsider and present Emily as poet first, recluse second. (My niece closed the valves of her attention on that one.) And now, my only wish is that I'd been able to see the presentation, which, alas, was far away in another state (literally, not figuratively.)
The Soul Selects Her Own Society
The soul selects her own society,
Then shuts the door;
On her divine majority
Obtrude no more.
Unmoved, she notes the chariot's pausing
At her low gate;
Unmoved, an emperor is kneeling
Upon her mat.
I've known her from an ample nation
Then close the valves of her attention