Emily Dickinson Poetry Discussion Group (2017-2018)

The Emily Dickinson Museum's Poetry Discussion group meets monthly September through May (except for December) for lively conversation about Emily Dickinson’s poetry and letters.  Featured facilitators each month offer fresh perspectives on Dickinson's poetry. While no RSVP is required, participants are invited to e-mail  edmprograms@emilydickinsonmuseum.org to receive a list of poems for discussion.

Time: Noon - 2 p.m.

Location: The Poetry Discussion Group meets at the Center for Humanistic Inquiry, on the second floor of Amherst College's Frost Library. Attendees are welcome to bring a bag lunch; beverages and a sweet snack are provided. Participants should report directly to the Library, and do not need to stop at the Museum.

Parking: Free parking for this program is available in the Amherst College Alumni Lot. Visitors to campus with any official state-issued Handicapped placards are permitted to park in any marked handicapped spot on campus without obtaining any additional permits from Amherst College.

For a campus map, click this link

Fee: The fee for Museum members is $12/session; the fee for non-members is $15/session. Season subscriptions are $80 for Museum members and $105 for non-members. To become a Friend of the Emily Dickinson Museum and enjoy member discounts, click here.

For more information, contact the Program Department: edmprograms@emilydickinsonmuseum.org or call (413) 542-2034.

 2017-2018 Season

  • Friday September 15, 2017

Session Topic: Dickinson's Enigmatic Riddling
Dickinson presents special challenges to readers of her poetry. We will look at several poems that can be seen differently in the ways we as readers experience them in order to begin to recognize Dickinson’s remarkable achievement in slyly challenging simplistic views of life by presenting the complexities of human experience.

 Leader: Margaret H. Freeman is Professor Emerita, Los Angeles Valley College, and co-director of Myrifield Institute for Cognition and the Arts (myrifield.org). She was a founding member and first president (1988-1992) of the Emily Dickinson International Society and moderates the monthly meetings of the Emily Dickinson Reading Circle at Myrifield in Heath, MA. She is a co-editor of the Oxford University Press series in Cognition and Poetics. Her research interests include cognitive poetics, aesthetics, linguistics, and literature. A list of her scholarly publications may be found here.

  •  Friday, October 20, 2017

Session Topic: Emily Dickinson as a Second Language, Part 1
Emily Dickinson wrote in a different time and place, in nineteenth-century American English, and with reference to long vanished cultural contexts. Moreover, this "Private Poet," created her own vocabulary, and many of her poems quote specific local and personal connections. Finally what she leaves unsaid is often most crucial to understanding. A much richer appreciation of the poems is realized by uncovering and understanding such elements of the poet's art.

 Leader:  Greg Mattingly is a retired corporate education and training professional living in the town of Orange, in central Massachusetts. He has been a guide on the staff of the Emily Dickinson Museum, in Amherst, Massachusetts, since 2010, and a contributing member of the Emily Dickinson International Society since 2008.

  •  Friday, November 17, 2017

Session Topic: Emily Dickinson as a Second Language, Part 2
Emily Dickinson wrote in a different time and place, in nineteenth-century American English, and with reference to long vanished cultural contexts. Moreover, this "Private Poet," created her own vocabulary, and many of her poems quote specific local and personal connections. Finally what she leaves unsaid is often most crucial to understanding. A much richer appreciation of the poems is realized by uncovering and understanding such elements of the poet's art.

 Leader:  Greg Mattingly is a retired corporate education and training professional living in the town of Orange, in central Massachusetts. He has been a guide on the staff of the Emily Dickinson Museum, in Amherst, Massachusetts, since 2010, and a contributing member of the Emily Dickinson International Society since 2008.

  • Friday, January 19, 2018

Session Topic: Emily Dickinson's Instruments of Writing
Emily Dickinson wrote poems and letters in both ink and pencil (by order of her eye doctor, after 1864.) How did she view her instruments of writing? Were they powerful, humble, decorative, erotic? Were they weapons, or the means of speaking forbidden messages, or signs of frustration and failure? How do Emily’s poems animate these instruments so that they become extensions of herself? Did she think of pens and pencils as being like painting tools, cutlery, cooking and gardening utensils, toys, or all of the above? 

 We’ll discuss this subject from a variety of angles, and play with it, too. 

Leader: Susan Snively grew up in Louisville, Kentucky, and now lives in Amherst, MA where she is a guide, discussion leader, and film script writer for the Emily Dickinson Museum. She was the founder and first director of the Writing Center at Amherst College, where she worked from 1981 until 2008.  She taught courses in writing and autobiographies of women, and has published four collections of poems. Snively has also published essays both personal and critical, and published a novel in 2014, The Heart Has Many Doors, about the love affair between Emily Dickinson and Judge Otis Phillips Lord. She has edited a new version of Poetry for Kids, Emily Dickinson. It was published in October, 2016 by Quarto Publishers, and illustrated by Christine Davenier.

Friday, February 16, 2018
Leader: Karen Sanchez-Eppler

Friday March 16, 2018
Leader: David Razor

Friday, April 20, 2018
Leader: Bruce Penniman 

Friday, May 18, 2018
Leader: Melba Jensen