Below left: A greeting from Emily Dickinson's bedroom from the Emily Dickinson Museum in Amherst. Alas, I do not have the host's name, but she said that the event broke the museum's record for geographic representation at one of their online programs with 35 different countries represented at this birthday celebration.
Below middle: I didn't have any of Dickinson's Black Cake handy, so I enjoyed a freshly baked pretzel while viewing the program from the Houghton Library.
Below right: Poet Dorianne Laux read her own poetry and selected poems by Emily Dickinson at the event sponsored by the Folger Shakespeare Library.
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Left: The celebration in Amherst opened with a performance by an Italian band called "Anais." They sang their original song based on Emily Dickinson's poem, "I'm Nobody! Who are you?"
The theme of the event was "Who is your Emily Dickinson," and the program included various videos from Dickinson aficionados who spoke about their own personal connections to the poet and her poetry. Some of the speakers recited their favorite poems by Dickinson.
The program also included...
* Instructions to craft a collage of a color-by-number portrait of Dickinson.
* Two special guests from Apple TV's "Dickinson," the show's creator, Alena Smith, and Ella Hunt, who portrays Susan Gilbert, who would become Dickinson's sister-in-law.
* A discussion of Dickinson's quite remarkable recipe for Black Cake (the ingredients include 19 eggs and -- if I heard correctly -- five pounds of raisins).
Some of the favorite poems recited by the fans of Dickinson:
* "Hope" is the thing with feathers
* I died for Beauty -- but was scarce
* How happy is the little stone
* This is my letter to the World (sung to the tune of Amazing Grace by a 7th grade class in New Hampshire)
At the right: Coincidentally, the program ended with Efrat Ben Zur's interpretation of "I'm Nobody! Who are you?" -- the same poem that inspired the group that opened the program.
"Team Cake" from Houghton Library (& other esteemed institutions) hosted an event at 3:00 p.m. (Eastern), and the program included quiet an impressive assembly of authors, poets, professors, and more.
They also spoke with Alena Smith, creator of Apple TV's "Dickinson," and she shared a sneak peek of a scene from Season 2.
Below: The sneak peek into Season 2 of Apple TV's "Dickinson" starred Hailee Steinfeld as Emily Dickinson as she prepared her 20-pound Black Cake for a baking contest to give the Amherst College Cattle Show a "generously spiced ass kicking" (and then, quipped Alena Smith, "hijinks ensued").
The program's readers and guests included food historian Laura Shapiro, author of What She Ate; Abigail Weil, food writer -- and much more; Heather Cole, curator of rare, unique, and special materials at the Brown University Library; NPR's Nikki Silva, co-creator of "The Kitchen Sisters"; Vanessa Braganza from the Harvard English Department; Emilie Hardman, Head of Distinctive Collections for MIT Libraries; Shayla Lawson, Assistant Professor of English at Amherst College; Rachel Syme, contributing author to "The New Yorker"; Margaret Rhee, author of a collection of poems called Love Robot; Ann Kjellberg, founding editor of Book Post; Allison Devers, author and dealer in rare books; author and poet Tracie Morris; and "Poet; Activist; Change-Maker," Amanda Gorman.
The panel shared favorite poems of Dickinson's, provided some history of food from Mount Holyoke College, discussed accounts of Emily Dickinson's chores at home ("Emily did the butterfly duties of the house, and her sister Lavinia did the moth part"), and provided readings from the letters of Emily Dickinson, and more.
Many of Laux's poems were inspired by anecdotes from Dickinson's life and/or by many of her the poet's personal objects -- her basket (the very one she would fill with goodies and lower from her bedroom window to the excited children waiting below), her tea cup ("Bring me the sunset in a cup"), a clock, and more. In one of her poems, Laux imagined speaking to the poet once she had died, and within her poem, Laux embedded all of the words from Dickinson's "Like Brooms of steel" (below on the left).
Having seen the tour of Dickinson's room provided by Jane Wald, Laux said she was feeling inspired to write poems based on some of the other objects -- Dickinson's hurricane lamp, her sleigh bed, and of course, her white dress.
"The objects come alive to me," said Laux, "and the more you get into them, the more they speak to you personally. It's as if Emily Dickinson is speaking to me, directly to me, through the years."
"One day..." she added, "One day I'm going to write about that dress."