Although Emily Dickinson has not set foot
on the MHC campus in more than 150 years, her presence is still
strongly felt at the College and throughout the world through
her words--which are very much alive and well. The poet and her
poetry will be felt more strongly still during a series of Dickinson-related
activities at Mount Holyoke this fall.
another fall, in 1847, Dickinson began study at the College, then
called Mount Holyoke Female Seminary. The next year, she returned
to her family's home in Amherst, where she settled into a life
of contemplation and writing, creating more than 1,700 poems before
her death in 1886.
English professor Christopher Benfey, author of Emily Dickinson:
Lives of a Poet (1986) and Emily Dickinson and the Problem of
Others (1984), is among the many scholars who have become fascinated
with the enigmatic Dickinson. This month, the University Press
of New England released The Dickinsons of Amherst, which includes
three essays on Dickinson, one by Benfey, and photographs by master
documentary photographer Jerome Liebling.
Patience for the Harvest,
a dramatic portrayal of Emily Dickinson and nineteenth-century
opera singer Jenny Lind, scheduled for November 1 has been
cancelled due to actress Jill Clayburgh's illness. The event
will be rescheduled.
a resident of Amherst, Liebling was first drawn to Dickinson's
home, and he later had the opportunity to document the Evergreens,
the poet's brother's house next door which was closed to the public
until recently. Together, the essays and photographs reveal the
history and legacy of the Dickinson homes, which were the setting
for the family and friends who shaped Dickinson's life. "You
might say that the three essays are extended captions, taking
their prompting and provocation from the images," said Benfey,
whose writing offers appreciation of Liebling's photographs and
insight into the light they shed on Dickinson and her work.
celebrate the publication of The Dickinsons of Amherst, the Mount
Holyoke College Art Museum's newly renovated lobby is featuring
an exhibition of Liebling's photos through December 16. An opening
reception for the exhibition will be held November 1, from 4 to
6 pm. For twenty years, Liebling has chronicled aspects of the
Dickinson homes. During the 1980s, he took black-andwhite photographs
of the homestead; ten years later, he took vivid color images
of the Evergreens, capturing what Benfey has called "the
invisible world . . . things hidden from the unaided human eye."
Emily Dickinson avoided the camera, we know of her appearance
only from a single daguerreotype (pictured above), taken the same
year that she attended MHC. In response to a request for a picture,
she wrote to Thomas Higginson: "Could you believe me without?
I had no portrait, now, but am small, like the Wren, and my Hair
is bold, like the Chestnut Bur and my eyes, like the Sherry in
the Glass, that the Guest leaves. Would this do just as well?"
Though Dickinson almost entirely succeeded in eluding the photographers
of her day, she has not escaped the insight revealed through Liebling's
November 1, a screening of the PBS documentary A Loaded Gun: Life
and Times of Emily Dickinson, with director Jim Wolpaw, will reveal
more about Dickinson. An open-mike event, featuring student writing
inspired by Emily Dickinson's poetry is also planned. Those creative
responses are being created this semester in a class taught by
Mary Jo Salter, Emily Dickinson Senior Lecturer in the Humanities.
students enrolled in Directing Emily Dickinson are also honoring
the poet this fall by developing dance and installation projects
inspired by her work. The works have been created in cooperation
with the art, dance, and English departments and will be performed
and displayed across campus throughout November, beginning November
1. "When I saw white dresses [Dickinson's attire of choice]
as an installation around Mary Lyon's grave last spring, I knew
we had to do something outside," said Holger Teschke, visiting
professor of theatre arts. "I hoped for an Indian summer
so that we might use the campus itself for our set and scenery."
Teschke, a native of Germany, fell in love with Dickinson's work
in English, which in translation, he says, can lose its rhythm
and its modern, vivid metaphor.
the end of November, Teschke will present Emily's Night Out,
a theatre piece featuring readings of letters and poems by Emily
Dickinson. Two student actors, two student dancers, and a student
pianist will perform the work November 27 in Abbey Chapel at 7:30
pm. Finally, on December 12, Teschke will host a collage of his
theatre students' projects in Rooke Theatre. The performance will
be "a belated birthday present" to Emily Dickinson,
said Teschke. Dickinson's birthday is December 10.