Emily Dickinson's handwriting on a letter and envelope

Poetry Discussion Group:
Spring Series

Emily Dickinson's handwriting on a letter and envelopeJoin us for a lively virtual discussion of Emily Dickinson’s poetry and letters, meeting once a month from February to May. This program is designed to welcome newcomers and seasoned readers of Dickinson alike. 

  • In February, meet-and-greet with fellow participants, share Dickinson stories, and learn from the Museum (and one another) about the poet’s publication story, editions of her work, and resources.
  • March through May’s sessions are facilitated by guest scholars, who will lead the group in discussion following a talk about their work. Brief reading handouts of 4-8 poems and/or letters will be distributed prior to the month’s program. May’s session will last an additional 15 minutes, giving the group time to celebrate, say goodbye, and reflect on the season’s poems.
Topics and Leaders:
  • February: Introduction with the Emily Dickinson Museum
  • March: Dickinson’s Natural Music with Gerard Holmes
  • April: Dickinson’s Long-Histories of Environmental Change with Ryan Heryford
  • May: Dickinson and Her Surprisingly Twenty-First Century Art of Trans Poetics with Joy Ladin

Please review full descriptions and bios below.

Format

As a registrant, you are signing up to join a small group of regular participants for four 90-minute zoom sessions. Meetings are participatory, with video and audio encouraged. Because we want everyone to feel comfortable speaking, sessions will not be recorded. The program is designed for adult audiences (18+).

Registration

We are offering an identical program for a Wednesday and Friday group. Please review the dates carefully. Because space is limited, we hope only those who can commit to attending will register. Refunds are not available for this program.

Wednesday Group, $75 program fee (inclusive of all sessions),  limited to 25 participants
February 23, 6-7:30 ET
March 23, 6-7:30 ET
April 13, 6-7:30 ET
May 11, 6-7:45 ET

Friday Group, $75 program fee (inclusive of all sessions), limited to 25 participants
February 25, 12-1:30 ET
March 25, 12-1:30 ET
April 15, 12-1:30 ET
May 13, 12-1:45 ET

Reservations are made on a first-come, first-served basis. While our Wednesday group is now closed, we have just a few spaces left in our Friday group. Please learn more about registration and request a space via this form.

Questions: Don’t hesitate to reach out at edmprograms@emilydickinsonmuseum.org with any questions about the program.

MARCH

Emily Dickinson’s Natural Music 
Emily Dickinson knew music well as a performer and a listener in parlors, churches, and other indoor spaces. But she also spent a lot of time outdoors, in the garden, walking her beloved dog Carlo, and exploring Amherst. Like many other writers of her time, Dickison wrote of natural sounds as having musical qualities. Wind, rain, cicadas, and of course birds all show up in her poems as sources of music, and as inspiration for her own distinctive poetic music. We will discuss how poets important to Dickinson wrote about the sounds of the natural world, and how Romantic musical composers and performers built sounds of nature into their work, before exploring together some of Dickinson’s poems that treat natural sounds musically.

Gerard Holmes completed a PhD in English Literature at the University of Maryland, College Park in 2020, with a dissertation titled “‘Discretion in the Interval’: Emily Dickinson’s Musical Performances.” He has published in The Emily Dickinson Journal and Reception, co-edited a 2021 special issue of Women’s Studies with the theme: New Directions in Dickinson and Music,” and contributed a chapter to The Oxford Handbook to Emily Dickinson, forthcoming from Oxford University Press in April 2022. In addition to teaching writing and literature, he is a nonprofit administrator, program manager, and fundraiser.

APRIL

“…an instant’s act:” Dickinson’s Long-Histories of Environmental Change
This discussion will consider the importance of Dickinson as a poet of the Anthropocene, that proposed geologic epoch in which human activity has rendered irreversible transformations to our global climate and conditions for life on earth.  While Dickinson was certainly not aware of climate change, nor she could have possibly predicted our current ecological precarity, we will explore particular Dickinson poems that focus on geologic time, wide-scale environmental transformations, and human/nonhuman entanglements, as sites to better consider our own individual, communal and species-based relations to contemporary environmental issues.

Ryan Heryford is Associate Professor of Environmental Literature in the Department of English at California State University East Bay, where he teaches courses in nineteenth and twentieth century American literature, with a focus in cultural narratives of environmental justice.  Recent publications can be found in ISLE: Interdisciplinary Studies of Literature and the Environment, The Mark Twain Annual, and The Emily Dickinson Journal.

MAY

Emily Dickinson and Her Surprisingly Twenty-First Century Art of Trans Poetics
As those who love her know, Dickinson often writes first-person poems describing states of being that don’t fit socially recognized categories, and which, as a result, have few terms or poetic conventions for expressing them. What kind of person, for example, would introduce themselves by saying “I am afraid to own a Body – / I am afraid to own a Soul,” or locates themselves in terms like these: “`Tis Miracle before Me – then – / `Tis Miracle behind – between”? Poets and scholars (including me) started using the term “trans poetics” – that is, poetic techniques for representing ways of being human that don’t fit conventional terms or categories – a little over a decade ago, to describe the growing body of work by transgender and nonbinary poets. But it didn’t long before critics began to realize that because “trans poetics” are required whenever poets represent unconventional ways of being human, the practice has a much longer lineage in American poetry, one that, as these examples show, reaches back at least to Emily Dickinson. In this discussion, we will examine a number of poems to see what Dickinson, in the middle of the nineteenth century, had already learned about the twenty-first century art of trans poetics.

Joy Ladin, who started leading classes on Dickinson’s poetry in the Homestead itself in the mid-1990s and has loved it every time, has been dubbed “the godmother of trans poetics.” She has published ten books of poetry, including National Jewish Book award-winner The Book of Anna, reissued by EOAGH Press, and just-published Shekhinah Speaks (Selva Oscura). She is also the author of a booklength study of Dickinson, Soldering the Abyss: Emily Dickinson and Modern American Poetry; a a memoir of gender transition, National Jewish Book Award finalist Through the Door of Life; and Lambda Literary and Triangle Award finalist, The Soul of the Stranger: Reading God and Torah from a Transgender Perspective. Episodes of her online conversation series, “Containing Multitudes,” are available at www.jewishlive.org/multitudes; links to her writings, readings, interviews and talks are at her website, joyladin.wordpress.com.

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Virtual Poetry Discussion Group
May 18 & May 28

The Emily Dickinson Museum’s Poetry Discussion Group meets monthly, September through May, for lively conversation about Emily Dickinson’s poetry and letters.

Join us on Tuesday, May 18 or Friday, May 28 from 1pm to 2:30pm EST on Zoom. Space is limited. To request a space, please fill out this registration form.

This program is free of charge, but we encourage those who are able to do so to make a donation after the program.

“Receiving Emily: Dickinson’s Addressed Poems”

In this session, we will look closely at the social life Emily Dickinson created with her poetry. While certainly not a social butterfly, Dickinson was nevertheless extensive in her social calls via the poetry she sent in, with, or as letters. What was it like to receive a poem from Emily? Through a discussion of poems and their variants, we will consider the ways she addressed her friends and acquaintances, and how we are addressed by her today. Poems for discussion include: variants of “Except the smaller size” (Fr606); variants of “Your – Riches – taught me – poverty!” (F418) and more.

About the Facilitator
Judith Scholes is Assistant Professor of English at St. Mark’s and Corpus Christi Colleges at the University of British Columbia, in Vancouver, Canada. She has a PhD in English from UBC, and specializes in nineteenth-century American print culture, women’s poetry and editing, and Emily Dickinson. She is currently completing a book that examines the rhetoric of women’s poetry as it emerged in mid-nineteenth century American periodicals, and shaped Emily Dickinson’s understanding and representation of herself as a poet. She is also pursuing a new book-length project that investigates the existence and rhetoric of women’s editorial work at U.S. daily newspapers during the first 70 years (~1830-1900) of women’s presence in newsrooms. Her work has appeared in the Emily Dickinson JournalAmerican Periodicals, and is forthcoming in the Oxford Handbook of Emily Dickinson.

Questions? write edmprograms@emilydickinsonmuseum.org

studio sessions

“A Mighty Room” Virtual Studio Session: Bedroom
Friday, May 7, 12-1pm

Emily Dickinson's white dress on a stand in her bedroom

 

Sweet hours have perished here;

This is a mighty room;

Within its precincts hopes have played, —

Now shadows in the tomb.  

-J1767 

 

VIRTUAL PROGRAM

Space is limited for this program and you may be added to a waitlist.
Update: Registration for this program has filled. 

Spend a “sweet hour” in Emily Dickinson’s creative space where she penned her startling poetry. Whether you are a writer, an artist, a composer, or a poet, you’ll find solace and inspiration for your artistic output in Emily Dickinson’s bedroom. Let this quiet virtual experience jumpstart your next creative journey. 

What to expect: As one of a limited number of remote participants, you will need to find a quiet spot with a good internet connection from which to be immersed in a live feed from the poet’s bedroom in the Dickinson family Homestead. Plan to have your camera and audio on. In this room Dickinson found freedom working up late by lamplight. A facilitator in the room welcomes you and gently guides you through three inspirational writing prompts to help you explore this unique physical and psychic space and unleash your own creativity over the course of the hour. Focused on reflection and quietude, this program is not a writing workshop, but you will have the opportunity at the end for a short share-out with the group if you wish.

honeybees on white asters

Virtual Poetry Discussion Group
April 16 & April 20

The Emily Dickinson Museum’s Poetry Discussion Group meets monthly, September through May, for lively conversation about Emily Dickinson’s poetry and letters.

Join us on Friday, April 16 from 12pm to 1:30pm EST or Tuesday, April 20, from 6pm to 7:30pm EST on Zoom. Space is limited, and registration for this program is now closed.

This program is free of charge, but we encourage those who are able to do so to make a donation after the program.

Topic: “We – Bee and I – live by the quaffing –”: Exploring Emily Dickinson’s Bees
Bees were incredibly popular figures in nineteenth-century American poetry: Emerson’s “The Humble-Bee” is one celebrated example, but bees also play prominent roles in poems by Henry David Thoreau, Edgar Allan Poe, John Greenleaf Whittier, Priscilla Jane Thompson, among many others. What distinguishes Emily Dickinson from these other poets is the breadth of her representations of bees. Dickinson’s use of bees lends itself to discussion of a remarkably rich array of themes: gender and sexuality, class and race, scientific and ecological discourse, religion, and aesthetics (and no doubt many more). Reflecting on this symbolic density, our discussion will chart points of congruity and incongruity between Dickinson’s changeable bees. 

About the Facilitator
Claire Nashar is a scholar, translator, editor, and poet. She earned her Ph.D. from the University of Buffalo (SUNY), supported by a Mellon/ACLS Dissertation Completion Fellowship. Winner of an Excellence in Teaching Award, she has published two books of poems, Lake (2016) and Handmade (2015) and a number of interviews, translations, poems, and critical essays. She edited a special issue of Formes Poétiques Contemporaines and is at work on a book-length translation of Louis Aragon’s Le Fou d’Elsa (1963). Nashar served as curator of the online Australian Poetry Library and as Assistant Project Editor and Manager for the Marianne Moore Digital Archive.

Questions? write edmprograms@emilydickinsonmuseum.org

Homestead piano and sheet music

Virtual Poetry Discussion Group
March 19 & 26

The Emily Dickinson Museum’s Poetry Discussion Group meets monthly, September through May, for lively conversation about Emily Dickinson’s poetry and letters.

Join us from 12pm to 1:30pm on Zoom for a discussion on March 19 or March 26. Space is limited. Please submit a registration request via this google form.

This program is free of charge, but we encourage those who are able to do so to make a donation after the program.

Topic: Yankee Doodle Variations: Emily Dickinson and Improvisation

The basic facts of Emily Dickinson’s known musical life have been well documented. She was said, at age 2 1/2, to enjoy playing “the moosic” on her aunt Lavinia’s piano. As a child, she took singing lessons, and later sang alongside other students at Mount Holyoke Female Seminary, where she also likely heard the Hutchinson Family Singers perform. In her twenties, she wrote of hearing the internationally famous soprano Jenny Lind, collected dozens of pieces of sheet music, and earned a reputation as a striking improviser at the piano. In fact, the Hutchinsons and Lind, among other performers Dickinson heard, were also widely recognized for their improvisations. 

Dickinson’s musical knowledge informed the writing of her poems. Judy Jo Small and other critics have noted that many poems follow familiar patterns of hymns, nursery rhymes, and ballads. Dickinson also wrote about music in letters and poems, demonstrating a nuanced grasp of musical principles. Finally, her poems’ formal qualities demonstrate the influence of improvisational performance practice. Those she kept for herself, in private, contain alternate words and markings, something like the annotated scores of a performing musician. Those she sent to friends and family were customized, often making use of these variants but seldom containing variants themselves. These function something like the extemporaneous piano performances for which she was known. 

To set the stage for this discussion, I will begin by presenting some foundational information about Dickinson’s musical life and interests, including how people of her time experienced and thought about improvisation and spontaneity more generally, both in music and in writing. Then we will discuss several poems – and perhaps a letter or two – that touch on music in social and natural settings. We will close by discussing a poem across several extant manuscripts, as an example of improvised poetic performance.

About the Facilitator
Gerard Holmes
completed a PhD in English Literature in 2020, at the University of Maryland, College Park, with a dissertation titled “‘Discretion in the Interval’: Emily Dickinson’s Musical Performances.” He has published in The Emily Dickinson JournalReception, and Women’s Studies, a special themed issue, “New Directions in Dickinson and Music,” which he also co-edited. He contributed a chapter to the forthcoming Oxford Handbook to Emily Dickinson.

a row of Dickinson's textbooks on a shelf

“A Mighty Room” Virtual Studio Session: Library
Thursday, March 4, 12-1pm

the inside of the homestead library

The Homestead Library

Sweet hours have perished here;

This is a mighty room;

Within its precincts hopes have played, —

Now shadows in the tomb.  

-J1767 

Spend a “sweet hour” in Emily Dickinson’s creative space where she penned her startling poetry. Whether you are a writer, an artist, a composer, or a poet, you’ll find solace and inspiration for your artistic output in Emily Dickinson’s library. Let this quiet virtual experience jumpstart your next creative journey. 

What to expect: As one of a limited number of participants, you will need to find a quiet spot with a good internet connection from which to be immersed in a live feed from the library of Emily Dickinson’s Homestead. Plan to have your camera and audio on. In this room were gathered Dickinson’s favorite books, her “Kinsmen of the Shelves” that “carried her to lands away.” A facilitator in the room welcomes you and gently guides you through three inspirational writing prompts to help you explore this unique physical and psychic space and unleash your own creativity over the course of the hour. Focused on reflection and quietude, this program is not a writing workshop, but you will have the opportunity at the end for a short share-out with the group if you wish. 

Space is limited for this program.  Please request a space using our registration form.

This program is free to participate, but your donation helps the Museum to continue providing free programs! Participants will be invited to make an online donation after the program.

Questions? write edmprograms@emilydickinsonmuseum.org. 

Fireplace in Emily Dickinson's bedroom

Virtual Poetry Discussion Group, February 19 & 24

The Emily Dickinson Museum’s Poetry Discussion Group meets monthly, September through May, for lively conversation about Emily Dickinson’s poetry and letters.

Join us from 12pm to 1:30pm on Zoom for a discussion on February 19 or February 24. Space is this program is no longer available. For questions, please write edmprograms@emilydickinsonmuseum.org.

This program is free of charge, but we encourage those who are able to do so to make a donation after the program.

Topic: “Emily Dickinson’s Hearths and Homes”
  Emily Dickinson’s experience of the family hearth and home became her metaphor for the transformation of thought into poetry.  Six poems about homes and hearths show how Dickinson used these images, how they evolved over time, and, time permitting, how they contrasted with other writers’ images of the family hearth.  

About the Facilitator
Melba Jensen has taught English, computer literacy, and mathematics to college students and high-school students since 1986. She completed her Ph.D. in English with an emphasis in nineteenth-century American Literature at the University of Massachusetts in 2005. She is a lecturer in American Literature at UMass-Amherst, and a guide at the Emily Dickinson Museum.

poetry discussion group

Virtual Poetry Discussion Group, January 15 & 22

The Emily Dickinson Museum’s Poetry Discussion Group meets monthly, September through May, for lively conversation about Emily Dickinson’s poetry and letters.

 

Join us from 1pm to 2:30pm on Zoom for a discussion on January 15 or January 22. Space is limited. To request a space, please complete this google form. For questions, please write edmprograms@emilydickinsonmuseum.org.

This program is free of charge, but we encourage those who are able to do so to make a donation after the program.

Topic: Title: “Nerve in Marble: the Geology of Emily Dickinson’s Poetry”   
Amanda Lowe’s work on Emily Dickinson interprets the processes of geothermal activity and rock metamorphosis as central to Dickinson’s poetic forms. This discussion invites participants to explore a collection of Dickinson’s poems that use images of volcanoes, granite and marble to explore the effects of human emotion on the body. We’ll discuss the development of geologic inquiry during the nineteenth century, Dickinson’s education in it, and suggest ways these theories seeped into her poetry. Through speakers’ depictions of highly alive and dead bodies, we’ll look together at the profound impact geology had on Dickinson’s understanding of the human relationship to the natural world.

About the Facilitator
Amanda Lowe is a PhD Candidate at Columbia University who researches the presence of geologic theory in nineteenth century American Literature. She is a current SOF/Heyman Center Public Humanities Fellow and the Graduate Student Coordinator for the Freedom and Citizenship Program. 

daguerreotype in gilt frame of Amherst College

Emily Dickinson’s Amherst College, December 4, 12-1:15pm

daguerreotype in gilt frame of Amherst College

Amherst College circa 1855. Half plate ambrotype by E.W. Cowles, courtesy of Amherst College Archives and Special Collections.

 

Join Museum staff for a lively lunchtime talk about the impact of Amherst College on the life of poet Emily Dickinson. 

The Dickinson family were instrumental to the College during its first 75 years, beginning with Samuel Fowler Dickinson’s part in its founding and continuing with Edward and Austin’s combined 60 years of service as treasurers. The College was an early and lasting influence in Dickinson’s own life, playing an inestimable role in her early education & friendships, and later connecting her to an ever-widening local and global community. Through original photographs and archival documents, encounter some of the people and places that defined Dickinson’s 19th century Amherst College, including students, professors, workers, and alumni. 

Following the talk, enjoy the Q&A with museum guides Stephanie Bennett, Brenna Macaray, Dr. Christopher Fobare, and Anna Plummer.

 

All are welcome to attend this free program, but registration is required. Register in advance via zoom. 
Questions? Please write edmprograms@emilydickinsonmuseum.org. 

a grid showing headshots of Jericho Brown, Kimaya Diggs, and Ada Limon. In the fourth square are the words "Tell It Slant"

Festival Headliners Ada Limón and Jericho Brown with Music by Kimaya Diggs
September 19, 7pm

a grid showing headshots of Jericho Brown, Kimaya Diggs, and Ada Limon. In the fourth square are the words "Tell It Slant"Settle in for an evening of music and poetry celebrating Emily Dickinson’s ongoing creative legacy with the work of three contemporary artists. Singer-songwriter Kimaya Diggs, brings you new original settings of Dickinson poems live from the poet’s bedroom, and headliners Ada Limón and Jericho Brown read from their work and discuss their poetic practice and inspiration. The evening begins and ends with 20-minute musical sets by Diggs, bookending the headliner poetry reading and Q&A with Brown, Limón, and guest interviewer Nathan McClain.  Don’t miss out on this special evening of community through art!

Live captioning will be available at this event!

*A note about Rosh Hashanah: We apologize that this event falls on the occasion of the Jewish New Year. The Festival has historically been scheduled in the third week of September for consistency and to avoid overlap with other local events. This program will be recorded and made available to view for three months following the event itself. Please register to receive information on how to view the recording. Shanah Tovah! 

About the artists:

Kimaya Diggs Portrait

 

Kimaya Diggs has mastered a genre-defying style. Inspired by the acrobatic folk renderings of Joni Mitchell, Ella Fitzgerald’s jazz stylings, and Lianna LaHavas’ soulful charisma, she draws skillfully from her lineage of musical pioneers, creating a musical lane all her own. With a playful presence and frank, transporting storytelling, Diggs’ mastery of her voice is the focal point of each performance, and a transfixing experience. Information and music at kimayadiggs.com or on instagram at @kimayadiggs.

 

Portrait of poet Ada LimonAda Limón is the author of five books of poetry, including The Carrying (Milkweed Editions, 2018), which won the National Book Critics Circle Award for Poetry and was named one of the top 5 poetry books of the year by the Washington Post. Her fourth book Bright Dead Things was named a finalist for the National Book Award, a finalist for the Kingsley Tufts Poetry Award, and a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award. She serves on the faculty of Queens University of Charlotte Low Residency M.F.A program, and the online and summer programs for the Provincetown Fine Arts Work Center. She also works as a freelance writer in Lexington, Kentucky.

 

picture of Jericho Brown: a black man wearing a yellow t-shirt smiles in front of some daffodilsJericho Brown is the recipient of a Whiting Writers’ Award and fellowships from the John Simon Guggenheim Foundation, the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study at Harvard University, and the National Endowment for the Arts. Brown’s first book, Please (2008), won the American Book Award. His second book, The New Testament (2014), won the Anisfield-Wolf Book Award and was named one of the best of the year by Library Journal, Coldfront, and the Academy of American Poets. He is also the author of the collection The Tradition (2019), which was a finalist for the 2019 National Book Award and the winner of the 2020 Pulitzer Prize for Poetry. His poems have appeared in Buzzfeed, The Nation, The New York Times, The New Yorker, The New Republic, TIME magazine, and The Pushcart Prize Anthology, and several volumes of The Best American Poetry anthologies. He is an associate professor and the director of the Creative Writing Program at Emory University in Atlanta.

About the interviewer:

A color head shot of poet and educator Nathan McClainNathan McClain is the author of Scale (Four Way Books, 2017), a recipient of fellowships from Sewanee Writers’ Conference, The Frost Place, Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference, and a graduate of Warren Wilson’s MFA Program for Writers.  His poems and prose have recently appeared or are forthcoming in Poetry Northwest, Green Mountains Review, Poem-a-Day, The Common, and The Critical Flame.  He teaches at Hampshire College. For more information visit www.nathanmcclain.com.

 

Support The Tell It Slant Poetry Festival and Honor Someone Special:
Admission to all Festival events is free, but online donations, especially those made in honor or memory of family, friends, or colleagues are heartily encouraged and vital to the future of this beloved annual event. All gifts are tax deductible and will be recognized as part of the Festival. 

2020 Tell It Slant Facebook Video – Festival Headliners Ada Limón and Jericho Brown with Music by Kimaya Diggs

2020 Tell It Slant Schedule