2012 Programs

Gorgeous Nothings photo

Friday, October 26, 2012
"The Gorgeous Nothings: Emily Dickinson's Envelope-Poems"
A presentation by artist/editors Jen Bervin and Marta Werner

Time:  2-3:30 pm
Location: First Floor, Frost Library, Amherst College
Fee:  No
co-sponsored by the Emily Dickinson Museum, Amherst College Archives and Special Collections, and Frost Library

The Gorgeous Nothings: Emily Dickinson's Envelope-Poems is a limited edition artist book based on Emily Dickinson's late compositions on envelopes.  Join artist Jen Bervin and professor Marta Werner for a presentation about these compositions and about the project to create the artist book.  Published by Granary Books (2012), The Gorgeous Nothings includes a portfolio of nearly fifty high-resolution double-sided color facsimiles with visual transcriptions. Werner's lyric essay, "Itineraries of Escape: Emily Dickinson's Envelope-Poems," provides the scholarly, historic, and poetic context for these exquisite late writings by Dickinson. The edition is accompanied by a guide with a bibliographic directory for the fragments and a series of visual indexes. As Bervin notes, the title, The Gorgeous Nothings, "is an excerpt from Emily Dickinson's manuscript A 821, 'the gorgeous | nothings | which | compose | the | sunset | keep'."  (A copy of this manuscript is one of the examples circulated at the Emily Dickinson Museum during tours of the poet's home.)

Following the formal presentation, the audience may ask questions, view the artist book, and see some of the manuscripts featured in the book during a reception at the Amherst College Archives and Special Collections.  Many of the manuscripts used in the project are held by the Archives and Special Collections.

Related Program:  Join us on Saturday, October 27, from 10 am to noon for a workshop with Bervin and Werner.  Space is limited; pre-registration required.  Details»

Jen Bervin's work brings together text and textile in a practice that encompasses poetry, archival research, artist books, and large-scale art works. Her books include The Gorgeous Nothings: Emily Dickinson's Envelope-Poems by Jen Bervin and Marta Werner (2012), The Dickinson Composites (2010), and The Desert (2008) from Granary Books, and Nets (2004) from UDP. Current and upcoming exhibitions include "Postscript: Writing After Conceptual Art" at the Museum of Contemporary Art Denver, and "HELP/LESS" at Printed Matter in New York. Bervin curated the New York exhibition, "Emily Dickinson at Poets House: Manuscripts from the Donald and Patricia Oresman Collection"—a rare selection of the poet Emily Dickinson's original manuscripts. For more, see www.jenbervin.com.

Marta Werner is professor of English at D’Youville College (Buffalo, NY), where she teaches American literature, poetry and poetics, critical theory, and writing. She is the author/editor of Emily Dickinson’s Open Folios: Scenes of Reading, Surfaces of Writing (U of Michigan P, 1995), Radical Scatters: An Electronic Archive of Emily Dickinson’s Late Fragments and Related Texts (U of Michigan P, 1999; U of Nebraska / Center for Digital Research in the Humanities, 2010), Ordinary Mysteries: The Common Journal of Nathaniel and Sophia Hawthorne (co-edited with Nicholas Lawrence, American Philosophical Society P, 2006), Hannah Weiner: The Book of Revelations (Jacket2, 2011); and, most recently, with Jen Bervin, The Gorgeous Nothings (Granary Books, 2012). Werner was awarded both the Bowers Prize and the JoAnn Boydson Prize for her work as a textual scholar. She has also served as a member and co-chair for the MLA’s Committee on Scholarly Editions, and on the Executive Board for the Society for Textual Scholarship.  Recently, Werner accepted an appointment to the Advisory Board for the Houghton Library’s “digital Dickinson.” She is currently working on a project that concerns connections among Dickinson’s “bird” poems, Cordelia Stanwood’s field notebooks, and Lorine Niedecker’s eco-poetics.