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 edmprograms@emilydickinsonmuseum.org 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.
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