During the pandemic, the Emily Dickinson Museum is celebrating monthly Amherst Arts Night Plus with remote poetry readings every first Thursday.
In June we feature poems from Poetry In The Pandemic, a crowd-sourced poetry project organized by Haoran Tong. The reading will feature staff, students, and faculty of Amherst College, and will last approximately 40 minutes. This program is dedicated to graduating seniors everywhere, but especially to the Museum’s two graduating student employees, Anna Plummer and Jane Bragdon.
This month’s readers are:
Eliza Brewer: Eliza is a poet and essayist from Houston, Texas studying English and Philosophy at Amherst. Her work has appeared in Circus, Outrageous Fortune, Polaris, The Allegheny Review, and Glass Mountain. She is a big sister to four siblings who are her inspiration and purpose.
Kalidas Shanti: Kalidas ‘22 is a poet majoring English and Math. He is currently engaged in a couple personal writing projects. The first is a collection of poems written in response to being in quarantine. All of the poems are written in iMessage to his partner as a way of maintaining intimacy while being in a long-distance relationship. The other is an expansion of a past project.
Brenna Macaray: Brenna ‘21 is an artist and poet currently majoring in English at Amherst College. She works as the Design Librarian for the Thester and Dance Dept., and at the Emily Dickinson Museum since 2018 as a museum assistant and tour guide, an opportunity for which she is ever grateful. She’s also currently working on her creative thesis in poetry, a lyric essay revolving in part around Dickinson.
Kiera Alventosa: Kiera ‘21 is a poet and writer from Long Island, New York, studying English and Environmental Studies at Amherst College. She is the Editor in Chief of The Indicator magazine and her work has also appeared in Circus. She is a recipient of the 2020 Academy of American Poets prize. She strives to write about nature with an environmental activism and justice perspective.
Anna Plummer: Anna has just graduated from Amherst College, where she majored in English and Theater & Dance. In a world with 32 hour days, she would have majored in History, too. She is a proud member of the Emily Dickinson Museum community, where she has worked as tour guide and museum assistant for five years. Anna has also studied literature and poetry writing in Bath, England.
Haoran Tong: (see below)
About the project:
The Covid-19 pandemic has changed the way we live, socialize, and communicate with nature. Ever since the outbreak, stay-at-home measures have been imposed to protect the vulnerable community for the sake of public health. Faces are masked, interactions are distanced, routines are interrupted. In the process of containing the virus, hope emerges from the darkness as the curves flatten, thanks to the heroic essential workers and generous community members. However, many people also suffer from shocking news, lost lives, and fractured families.
Amidst uncertainty and anxiety, poetry brings us hope, inspiration, and reflection. If the consoling and unifying power of poetry is forgotten in ordinary times, it is becoming ever more influential and desirable in trying times. On Instagram, reading a poem per day has become a cure for boredom and loneliness. When we read and write poetry, we do so to understand and connect with each other. Poetry reminds us of our inner qualities of empathy, unity, and freedom.
To encourage the members of the Amherst community to lead a poetic life and overcome the difficult circumstances, Haoran Tong ‘23 creates a platform of poetry reading and writing. Alumni, faculty, staff, students, and families of Amherst College share their thoughts and expressions with others by submitting poems they have read or written during the pandemic. They may also provide a brief explanation of how they resonate with the poems in the context of the pandemic.”
About Haoran Tong:
Haoran Tong ’23, the organizer of the “Poetry in the Pandemic” project, is a first-year student at Amherst College, MA. His poetic journey started at the age of 4 in Beijing, China, where he was born and bred. He enjoys the works of Emily Dickinson, Du Fu, William Butler Yeats, Rabindranath Tagore, Adunis, Jorge Luis Borges, and Xi Chuan. He was awarded the Youth Poet Laureate of China in 2017. As a member of the Poets Unite Worldwide Association, he wants to promote intercultural exchange by exploring the possibilities of poetic form and expression. Besides poetry, he is a lover of choral singing, physics, and comparative legal studies.