Emily Dickinson’s poetry furnishes composers with great opportunities for musical setting, but her poetry also presents a special challenge. Her densely concentrated syntax hinders an effective marriage of music and meaning. This poem (text reproduced below) describes a vicious small-town gossip. At first, the speaker reacts to the gossip’s subtle malevolence by retreating into a pained silence, but after the encounter, her anger bursts forth in the stormy deprecations of the poem. To illustrate the speaker’s emotional reaction and gradually formed response, I chose syllables of stammering, as if the speaker were struggling to let her words break free of the rigid small-town conventions restricting what she could say in public.