BEFORE OUR EMILY DICKINSON
Our Emily Dickinson: a retreat for women poets
June 4-10, 2023
Before we go, you might want to know…
Why aren’t we going to Harvard?
I’m not sorry to miss out on Boston traffic, but that is not the main reason!
Emily’s bio is long and fascinating for such a short life!
Listen to my favorite podcasters, The History Chicks, explore and expand on what you might already know about her life and work, and the afterlife of each!
*Part 1 here and Part 2 here.
*They’re also in our bonus resources, because, fabulous researchers that they are, they’ve ALREADY collected a great reading list.
I wouldn’t rely on the delight that is AppleTV+’s Dickinson for biographical details, but taken with the amazing podcast, The Slave is Gone: The Show That Talks Back to AppleTV+’s Dickinson, you’re bound to make wonderful discoveries about the poet.
“Hosted by 2020 Pulitzer Prize-winning poet Jericho Brown and 2020 Cave Canem book award-winner Brionne Janae, with pathbreaking Dickinson scholar Aífe Murray, The Slave Is Gone is infused with the insights, intelligence and humor of poets, scholars, and critics who explore and explode the poetry of Emily Dickinson and its context.”
Find out more or subscribe on their homepage.
There is a huge circle of fellow smart fans out there, exploring Emily Dickinson’s life and work! Have you heard of the Emily Dickinson Society? They host a conference, a peer edited journal and a yearly pilgrimage to Amherst.
“The soul should always stand ajar, ready to welcome the ecstatic experience.”
– Emily Dickinson
Our first stop on Monday is the Emily Dickinson Homestead, and we’ll be exploring pieces of Amherst off and on all week.
The museum’s website has incredible resources — too many to name here. If you’re looking for Dickinson rabbit holes, this is the place! (Start with the FAQs!)
In researching our time at Our Emily, I read many books/had some delightful deep dives into resources I’ll include in a bibliography you’ll get as part of your packet. If you’re looking for a single book to read before we go, I loved the unique approach of Martha Ackman’s These Fevered Days: 10 pivotal moments in the making of Emily Dickinson. Rather than a comprehensive biography, it explores themes in her life and work by giving them context from Amherst, the world around her, and what was happening in the lives of her friends and in the natural world at the time. A delight!
This contextualizing video (1.5 hr), Color, Caste and Denomination: Emily Dickinson’s Race and Class Contexts, features the work of four Dickinson museum docents – avid Dickinson fans and researchers – an event which will help contextualize the Amherst of her day, and the social and political environment she was immersed in.
Amherst is a popular literary pilgrimage destination, and they’ve provided this literary trail map, if you’re in the mood to amble further.
Please plan to bring:
Good walking shoes
Something warm for the chilly nights if weather permits us a campfire or two.
Your copy of The Complete Poems of Emily Dickinson*
*The editors Thomas H. Johnson and H. W. Franklin each claimed to be the foremost scholars of Emily Dickinson’s work, and have produced “complete” collections, differing from each other. Because she did not title her poems, they are numbered, and these two use separate numbering systems. I use the numbering system from Johnson in the written prompts, not because I recommend it, but because it’s where my MFA notes were kept! It’s also the one Poets.org uses in its titling system for her work. Many use Franklin’s collection instead.
Either edition is fine for our purposes.