Copland chose eight from his song cycle of twelve poems by this unique American poet to transcribe for voice and small orchestra. He hoped the arrangement would give the songs a wider hearing. Dickinson's writing had a particular appeal to the composer. "Her poetry, written in isolation, was folklike, with irregular meters and stanzas and many unconventional devices," wrote Copland. The orchestrated version was premiered for a concert in honor of his seventieth birthday at the Metropolitan Museum of Art.