LitFest, February 27-March 1, 2020

litfestFrom February 27 through March 1, LitFest returns to Amherst College. Celebrate the extraordinary literary life at the college with distinguished authors and editors who will discuss the pleasures and challenges of verbal expression. This year’s festival features Jesmyn Ward, winner of a 2017 National Book Award (NBA) for fiction, 2019 NBA Fiction Winner Susan Choi and finalist Laila Lalami, and memoirist Ben Rhodes, former speechwriter and deputy national security advisor to President Barack Obama.

For more information, please visit the Amherst College LitFest webpage


Poetry Discussion Group, February 21, 2020

The Emily Dickinson Museum’s Poetry Discussion Group meets monthly, September through May, for lively conversation about Emily Dickinson’s poetry and letters. The Poetry Discussion Group meets at the Center for Humanistic Inquiry, on the second floor of Amherst College’s Frost Library. Participants should proceed directly to the Library and do not need to stop at the Museum. While no RSVP is required, participants are invited to email to receive a list of poems for discussion. Attendees are welcome to bring a bag lunch. Beverages and a sweet snack are provided.

The February Poetry Discussion Group will meet on February 21, 2020 from 12PM to 2pm. 

In this session, we will take a fresh look at Emily Dickinson’s poetry in the context of the lives, loves, and writing of two prominent contemporaries—Margaret Fuller and Julia Ward Howe.  Like Dickinson, these two women rebelled against the social and intellectual fetters imposed by the gender assumptions of their time. All three lived lives of longing and disappointment; all three found a positive way forward through the written word. 

Facilitator: Polly Peterson

Meeting Notes

  • Center of Humanistic Inquiry Address: 61 Quadrangle Dr, Amherst. This event will meet at the Think Tank, the lounge across from the staircase to the second floor.
  • Parking – attendees may park in the Amherst College Alumni Lot and walk to the library free of charge. Metered parking is available closer to campus on the Town Common. Some select spots and accessible parking are available on campus, around the quad and behind the Frost Library. Participants with a state-issued handicap placard may park in any accessible spaces on campus. See the Amherst College campus parking map for more information.
  • Program cost – Drop-in fees are as follows: $12 for EDM Friends (Members); $15 for Non-Members.
poetry discussion group

Poetry Discussion Group, January 17, 2020

The Emily Dickinson Museum’s Poetry Discussion Group meets monthly, September through May, for lively conversation about Emily Dickinson’s poetry and letters. The Poetry Discussion Group meets at the Center for Humanistic Inquiry, on the second floor of Amherst College’s Frost Library. Participants should proceed directly to the Library and do not need to stop at the Museum. While no RSVP is required, participants are invited to email to receive a list of poems for discussion. Attendees are welcome to bring a bag lunch. Beverages and a sweet snack are provided.

January Poetry Discussion Group will meet on January 17 2020 from 12pm to 2pm. 

Dickinson and the Law

Lawyers and legal discourse surrounded the poet. Emily had three lawyers in her immediate family, a love interest who worked as her father’s law clerk, and another romantic relationship with an esteemed Salem judge. Naturally, she picked up on legal language and concepts—in particular, those of property interests, crime, and contractual obligations. Many of Emily’s legal references make us laugh, such as the spider squatting on her toilet in a case of adverse possession, or the dying speaker surrounded by friends and flies who has assigned all parts of her that were assignable. There are over a hundred legal terms in her work, and many more poems than we can “do justice to” in one sitting. We will muse together over some of the more humorous instances of legal words and concepts in her opus.

Facilitator: Jill Franks is a recovering attorney, previously licensed in the state of Massachusetts, who changed careers in 1987. While a lawyer, she had a general practice in Northampton and served also at Legal Services Offices, UMass, as an advocate for students. Starting in 1987, Jill studied English Literature, earning a PhD from Rutgers in 1992 and subsequently teaching at University of British Columbia and Austin Peay State University. She is the author of several monographs about literary figures and cinematic auteurs. Her most recent publication is a travel/literary book about her hike on the Coast to Coast trail of northern England (Every Stranger a God: Hiking the English Moors, available at Amazon). Jill guides at the Emily Dickinson Museum and appreciates the enthusiasm and scholarship of the Poetry Discussion Group.

Meeting Notes

  • Center of Humanistic Inquiry Address: 61 Quadrangle Dr, Amherst. This event will be held in the seminar room, the classroom on the left at the top of the stairs.
  • Parking – attendees may park in the Amherst College Alumni Lot and walk to the library free of charge. Metered parking is available closer to campus on the Town Common. Some select spots and accessible parking are available on campus, around the quad and behind the Frost Library. Participants with a state-issued handicap placard may park in any accessible spaces on campus. See the Amherst College campus parking map for more information.
  • Program cost – Drop-in fees are as follows: $12 for EDM Friends (Members); $15 for Non-Members.

“The World Writes Back: Postcards to Emily Dickinson,” 2019

This is my letter to the World 
That never wrote to Me –
The simple News that Nature told – 
With tender Majesty


craft project

When Emily Dickinson wrote her “letter to the World,” she wrote to a world “That never wrote to Me.” Now the world has the opportunity to write back! In honor of the poet’s birthday on December 10, 2019, the Emily Dickinson Museum invites you to contribute to the celebratory exhibit, “The World Writes Back: Postcards to Emily Dickinson.” Send us a postcard, and your work and words will be on display in the Homestead where Dickinson wrote almost all of her 1,789 poems!



How to participate:

  1. Purchase or create an original postcard representing your corner of the world.
  2. Write down some thoughts! You might share how you discovered Emily Dickinson, how you’ve been inspired by her life and work, and/or send us original poetry of your own! If you like, snap a photo of your postcard and share to social media using #PostcardstoEmily.
  3. Mail your work to the Emily Dickinson Museum. Postcards received by December 10 will be included in the exhibit. Please mail postcards to:
    Emily Dickinson Museum
    280 Main Street
    Amherst, MA 01002
  4. Follow along on the Museum’s social media to see your work displayed in the Homestead! @EmilyDickinson.Museum on Instagram, @DickinsonMuseum on Twitter, and @Emily.Dickinson.Museum on Facebook. Or follow the hashtags #PostcardstoEmily and #TheWorldWritesBack.

Please note: Postcards will be displayed during family events. Please refrain from using explicit language or images. By sending us your postcard, you give the Emily Dickinson Museum the right to share your work in the exhibit and via social media. Please sign your card as you would like to be attributed.

Questions can be directed to

Lesley Dill Tell it Slant

Lesley Dill to Receive This Year’s ‘Tell It Slant’ Award


The artist will receive the award at the Folger Shakespeare Library’s Emily Dickinson Birthday Tribute

Lesley Dill Tell It Slant(AMHERST, Mass., October 7, 2019) – Today the Emily Dickinson Museum announced the winner of the 2019 Tell It Slant Award. The award honors individuals whose work is imbued with the creative spirit of Emily Dickinson. This year’s recipient is Lesley Dill, a prominent American artist working at the intersection of language and fine art. Dill’s work has been exhibited around the world, and her art is in collection at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Museum of Modern Art New York, and the Whitney Museum of American Art. Her opera based on Dickinson’s poems, Divide Light, was performed by New York’s New Camerata Opera Company in 2018. 

The Tell It Slant Award, which was created in 2012 by the Emily Dickinson Museum’s Board of Governors, takes its name from the well-known poem, “Tell all the Truth but tell it slant – / Success in Circuit lies / Too bright for our infirm Delight / The Truth’s superb surprise.” Past award winners include Pulitzer prize-winning poet Kay Ryan, former Poet Laureate Richard Wilbur, documentary filmmaker Ken Burns, and writer and A Prairie Home Companion host Garrison Keillor. Each year, recipients are chosen from a talented and diverse pool of individuals by the Museum’s board. This year’s winner is particularly deserving of the award.

Lesley Dill’s elegant work invests new meaning in the human form. By using paper, wire, horsehair, photography, foil, bronze, and music to convey the complexity of communication, much of her work alludes to or draws directly from the poetry of Emily Dickinson. Like the Amherst poet herself, Dill uses her provocative and intricate art to challenge the viewer to confront their linguistic relationships and perceptions of language.

“Using the written word as both a signifier and a kind of decorative motif,” Michael O’Sullivan writes for The Washington Post, “Dill covers everything she does with a seeming jumble of often illegible letters. Forcing the viewer to squint, stoop and search, sometimes in vain, for recognizable sentences, the artist creates messages that are as much a kind of linguistic code—marks representing ideas—as they are mute blemishes, abstractions whose resonance has more to do with emotion than rhetoric.”

If “language is just a series of symbols imbued with the meaning and power we give them,” Lennie Bennett writes for The Times, then Dill’s use of language as art “seeks a different affirmation, a more private pact that doesn’t require one necessarily to know a language, only to understand its intent.”

Dill will receive the award during the Folger Shakespeare Library’s Emily Dickinson Birthday Tribute on December 9. The annual celebration brings together speakers, scholars, and fans of Emily Dickinson’s work to celebrate the illustrious poet and her writing. This year’s tribute will feature poet Tom Sleigh, who will read his favorite Dickinson poems and share from his own work, and Dill, who will discuss her Dickinson-inspired work. Following the presentation, the two artists will have a conversation about their shared muse.

Since its inception, the Emily Dickinson Museum has welcomed more than 150,000 visitors from 50 countries and serves as the premier center for study, interpretation, and celebration of Emily Dickinson’s place in literature, history, and culture. These awards will support the Museum’s mission to spark the imagination by amplifying Dickinson’s revolutionary poetic voice from the place she called home. The Museum is open Wednesday through Sunday, 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Learn more at


wild nights

‘Wild Nights with Emily’ Screening and Director’s Q&A, October 26, 2019

wild nights with emilyJoin us for free screening of the SxSW dramatic comedy ‘Wild Nights with Emily,’ — starring Molly Shannon as the beloved poet Emily Dickinson. Followed by a Q&A with director Madeleine Olnek, and Emily Dickinson Museum curator Jane Wald. Don’t miss this opportunity to see the movie IndieWire called “hilarious” and “touching”! 

Location: The screening will take place in Lipton Lecture Hall in the Amherst College Science Center on the east side of campus from 5:00 p.m. to 7:00 p.m. The hall is room E110 and is located on the first floor by the cafe.

Parking: Parking is available along East Drive and Merrill Science Drive and no permit is required (even if indicated).

About the Film

In the mid-19th century, Emily Dickinson is writing prolifically, baking gingerbread, and enjoying a passionate, lifelong relationship with another woman, her friend and sister-in-law Susan. Beloved comic Molly Shannon leads in this humorous yet bold reappraisal of Dickinson, informed by her private letters. While seeking publication of some of the 1,789 poems written during her lifetime, Emily (Shannon) finds herself facing a troupe of male literary gatekeepers too confused by her genius to take her work seriously. Instead her work attracts the attention of an ambitious woman editor, who also sees Emily as a convenient cover for her own role in buttoned-up Amherst’s most bizarre love triangle.

About the Filmmaker

Madeleine Olnek is a New York City based playwright and filmmaker. Her third feature film, Wild Nights With Emily, was awarded a Guggenheim Fellowship and awards from NYSCA and Jerome Foundation funds. Her second feature, The Foxy Merkins, included screenings at Sundance 2014, BAM Cinemafest, Lincoln Center, and an NYC theatrical run at IFP. The film had its international premiere at the Moscow Film Festival. Her debut feature, Codependent Lesbian Sex Alien Seeks Same, premiered at Sundance 2011. Its screening included MoMa, The Viennale and the Festival do Rio. Nominated for a Gotham award, it had theatrical runs in LA and NYC. Her award-winning and widely screened comedy shorts, “Countertransference” (2009), and “Hold Up” (2006), were official selections of Sundance; “Make Room For Phyllis” (2007) premiered at Sarasota. Olnek was awarded best female short film director at Sundance in 2009, by LA’s Women In Film organization.


Emily Dickinson and her British Contemporaries, November 9, 2019

4:30-6PM at the Emily Dickinson Museum Homestead

Scholar Páraic Finnerty presents this lecture on Emily Dickinson and her British contemporaries. He will discuss Dickinson’s reading of and response to three of her favorite British poets—Elizabeth Barrett Browning, Robert Browning, and Alfred Tennyson—in relation to their nineteenth-century U.S. reception. The lecture will focus on the impact of Tennyson’s and Browning’s development and popularization of the dramatic lyric (later termed the dramatic monologue) on Dickinson’s poetics. In the process, Finnerty will explore how this context provides a new way of interpreting Dickinson’s poetry. Time for questions and answers will follow the talk.

This program is free and open to the public.


About the speaker: Páraic Finnerty is Reader in English and American Literature at the University of Portsmouth. He is the author of Emily Dickinson’s Shakespeare and co-author of Victorian Celebrity Culture and Tennyson’s Circle (2013). He is currently working on a monograph entitled Dickinson and her British Contemporaries, forthcoming from Edinburgh University Press. He is a member of the Board of Directors of the Emily Dickinson International Society and serves on the Editorial Board of the Emily Dickinson Journal.

apf 2018

Call for Proposals for the Amherst Poetry Festival, July 3-25, 2019

poetry festival

The Emily Dickinson Museum is now accepting proposals for our seventh annual Amherst Poetry Festival, September 19-22, 2019!
Produced by the Emily Dickinson Museum, with support from the Community Foundation of Western Massachusetts, the Beveridge Family Foundation, Amherst Business Improvement District, Massachusetts Cultural Council, and Jones Library, the Amherst Poetry Festival celebrates the poetic legacy of Emily Dickinson and the contemporary creativity of the Pioneer Valley and beyond.
Proposals for audience-centered workshopspanel discussions, and participatory programs are welcome. The Steering Committee especially welcomes the following:

    • Submissions from groups of 2 – 5 poets
    • Submissions that engage young attendees and those new to poetry
    • Submissions that involve hands-on components
A $200 honorarium will be provided per event. Event facilitators are asked to pay their own travel and lodging expenses.
Proposals should be designed for one of the following program slots: (Individuals may submit for more than one program slot)

  • Poetry workshops for students of high school (grades 9-12). 45-minute classroom session, to be offered up to four times between 7:50am to 3pm. Partner schools will be shared with selected poets and will include schools in Hampshire and Hampden counties.
  • Daytime poetry workshops, panels, or participatory programs open to the public to occur at a variety of Festival venues, including on site at the Emily Dickinson Museum, at the Jones Library, Hope and Feathers Art Gallery, etc. (Examples of participatory programs might include mobile activities, resource booths, etc.). Event sessions are typically an hour and a half long. 
Submission Guidelines:
  • Only submissions made in the online form will be considered. There is no fee to submit proposals.
  • Following your submission, please e-mail your resume/cv to 
    • Include “POETRY FESTIVAL SUBMISSION” in the title of the e-mail. We can accept .pdf, .doc, .docx files.
      If applicable, you may also submit an image in .jpg, .jpeg, .gif, and .png format.
  • Selected facilitators will be notified by August 9, and will be asked to sign a letter of agreement confirming their participation in the Festival.
  • Submissions Due: Thursday, July 25, 2019, 11:59 pm EST.

Submissions will be judged on the following:

  • Originality – Is your idea bold and intriguing? Will it offer something new to our Festival?
  • Quality – Does the submission reflect thoughtful preparation? How are you uniquely qualified to facilitate this program?
  • Audience – Have you clearly outlined participatory elements? How does your proposal contribute to community-building for the Amherst Poetry Festival? 
  • Special consideration will be given to Pioneer Valley and Massachusetts-based facilitators.
Questions? Email us at
Image of "In Suspension" in the Homestead Conservatory

In Suspension: A site-specific art installation, June 21 – September 9, 2019


Image of "In Suspension" in the Homestead Conservatory
Wonder – is not
precisely knowing 
And not precisely
knowing not – 
A beautiful but
bleak condition 
He has not lived
who has not felt – 
Suspense – is his
maturer Sister – 
Whether Adult Delight is Pain 
Or of itself a
new misgiving – 
This is the
Gnat that
mangles men – 

In Suspension

A site-specific art installation at the Emily Dickinson Museum featuring work by Tereza Swanda, Ingrid Pichler, and Fletcher Boote

The Emily Dickinson Museum is pleased to present this first site-specific art installation in the restored Homestead conservatory. In this small greenhouse Dickinson tended flowers “near and foreign,” forging a deep connection that permeated her poetry and daily life. Imagine dirt under the poet’s fingernails as she wrote the poems that immortalized flowers blooming in her garden, home, and Amherst’s fields and woodlands.

This mixed-media installation aims to forge the colors Dickinson saw from the conservatory out into her landscape. In this meditation on suspension, colors change based on the atmosphere, and the space between subjects. Light from color gels is cast throughout the room by projection and refraction. Sound is a complimentary element to color.

The installation is best viewed from inside the conservatory, which is open from 11AM-4:30PM each day the Museum is open (Wednesday through Monday). All are welcome inside to view the installation, but the space is restricted to four people at a time. Photography inside the installation is most welcome.

About the artists:

Tereza Swanda teaches at Dean College and has 20 years of color theory through painting. She graduated from Mass Art in Boston with a degree in Sculpture and Painting and holds an MFA from Vermont College of Fine Arts. She has exhibited her own work extensively both locally, nationally and internationally over the last ten years. Learn more:

Ingrid Pichler specializes in site-specific glass installation for the private and public sector and is a visiting lecturer at Salem State University. Pichler has been working in architectural glass for almost thirty years. Throughout her career, her hands-on approach has enabled her to develop a keen understanding of the transformative potential of light in the context of architectural glass. Most of her works have been commissioned, location-specific installations, utilizing a wide range of techniques from traditional painting and staining, to new innovation for fusing and casting in contemporary glass technology. Learn more:

Fletcher Boote is a composer and performer investigating nuances of human relationships as they are expressed in arrangements of sounds. She has recently taught sound healing and vocal workshops at Princeton University and lead courses at Johnson State College. Boote has been working in sound for over a decade and has worked with students of Meredith Monk. Learn more:


“Emily Dickinson’s Gardening Life”, with Marta McDowell, December 15, 2019

4:30-6PM at the Amherst Woman’s Club at 35 Triangle Street, Amherst, MA

The cultivated world of plants, wildflowers, trees, and shrubs provided Emily Dickinson with a constant source of inspiration and companionship. On December 15, take a seated “tour” of Dickinson’s gardens with the author of Emily Dickinson’s Gardening Life: The Plants and Places that Inspired the Poet. Led by celebrated garden historian and 2018 Gardener-in-Residence Marta McDowell, this talk will treat visitors to a seasonal exploration of the poet’s passion for the natural world. 

A book signing follows the talk. Books will be available for purchase at the program. Light refreshments will be served. This event is free and open to the public.  Parking for this program is available at the Amherst Woman’s Club. 

About Emily Dickinson’s Gardening Life (Timber Press, 2019):

Emily Dickinson was a gardener as well as a poet.  She tended flowers in her Amherst, Massachusetts garden and in the small conservatory that her father added on to their brick house on Main Street.  Flowers have their own poetry.  As she said, “flowers…, without lips, have language.”  Emily Dickinson’s Gardening Life explores the plants and places of Dickinson’s life alongside her poetry.

Richly illustrated with selections from Dickinson’s herbarium, period botanical art by three of Dickinson’s contemporaries, historical images, and new photographs, Emily Dickinson’s Gardening Life traces this little-know part of Dickinson’s life. It beautifully reveals the many ways her passion for plants sparked her creativity and inspired much of her beloved poetry.

About Marta McDowell:

Marta McDowell teaches landscape history and horticulture at the New York Botanical Garden and consults for private clients and public gardens.  Her latest book is Emily Dickinson’s Gardening Life, 2019. Timber Press also published The World of Laura Ingalls Wilder, New York Times-bestselling All the Presidents’ Gardens, and Beatrix Potter’s Gardening Life, now in its seventh printing.  Marta is working on a new book about The Secret Garden and its author, Frances Hodgson Burnett, due out from Timber Press in 2022. She is the 2019 recipient of the Garden Club of America’s Sarah Chapman Francis Medal for outstanding literary achievement.