July 3, 2022

Poems to Help Your Public Speaking: Inflection and Emily Dickinson

Poems to Read Aloud , Resources , The Buckley Experience

The Buckley School's founder believed that all speakers should hone their presentation skills by reading poetry out loud. We keep that worthwhile practice alive by including a poem in our magazine each month for you to read aloud.


Though she'd often send poems along in letters to friends, Emily Dickinson wasn't published or known widely until after her death--when 40 hand bound volumes containing more than 1,800 poems were found among her belongings.

Letter from Dickinson to Kendall Emerson that opens with "I send you a blossom." Dickinson often sent poems with her letters, as well.

Among them is this poem that seems especially well suited to help a speaker practice work on inflection. In public speaking, a rhetorical question can be a way to engage audiences--inviting the audience to consider their own thoughts before the speaker provides an answer.

And of course, speakers can make statements with questions--also signaled by their delivery.

There's an art to asking a rhetorical question, which we've explored here. Meanwhile, you can experiment with all the ways to sound inquisitive (or demanding or definitive) by reading this poem from Dickinson out loud.

Answer July

by Emily Dickinson

Answer July—
Where is the Bee—
Where is the Blush—
Where is the Hay?

Ah, said July—
Where is the Seed—
Where is the Bud—
Where is the May—
Answer Thee—Me—

Nay—said the May—
Show me the Snow—
Show me the Bells—
Show me the Jay!

Quibbled the Jay—
Where be the Maize—
Where be the Haze—
Where be the Bur?
Here—said the Year—

Share this article