Woodrat Podcast 31: Emily Dickinson at 180

Emily Dickinson

180: a half-circle of years since the birth of Emily Dickinson. I got the idea of doing this podcast around 2:00 p.m. yesterday and sent out a bunch of emails expecting that maybe a third of the recipients would be able to make recordings of themselves reading and talking about Dickinson. Instead, almost everyone did! I also advertised for participants on Twitter and Facebook, and got several more volunteers that way. So this episode is twice as long as usual, but that’s O.K., because hey — it’s a party! (Albeit a low-key one, as Dickinson probably would’ve preferred.) This is not a scholarly discussion of Dickinson; check out Open Source Radio’s podcast with Helen Vendler if you’d like something more analytical. We are just poets, artists, novelists, knitters, musicians… appreciators of poetry reading and musing about one of the giants of world literature.

Participants: Kelli Russell Agodon, Ivy Alvarez, Patricia F. Anderson, Rachel Barenblat, Kristin Berkey-Abbott, Bob BrueckL, Sherry Chandler, Brenda Clews, Teju Cole, Jason Crane, Anna Dickie, Jessica Fox-Wilson, Dick Jones, Collin Kelley, Alison Kent, Clayton Michaels, Divya Rajan, Deb Scott, Nic S., Steven Sherrill, Carolee Sherwood, Hannah Stephenson, Christine Swint and Donna Vorreyer.

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Theme music: “Le grand sequoia,” by Innvivo (Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike licence)

34 Replies to “Woodrat Podcast 31: Emily Dickinson at 180”

    1. Thanks for listening, Nic. You know, I have a reproduction of that 19th-century edition of her poems pictured on the upper left, and it never occurred to me before how appropriate the cover illustration is: the white, saprophytic flower Indian pipes, a.k.a ghost flower or corpse plant.

  1. I just finished listening to the Emily podcast, and what a breath of fresh air it is! All of the voices of the readers are so pure and genuine. I can’t imagine anything more interesting or important than this being added to the internet today from anywhere around the world. Thanks, Dave, for all the time and effort you put into making this a reality. Emily Dickinson is clearly still ALIVE and kicking!

    1. You said it! Thanks for tipping me off about her birthday. This was fun, if a little exhausting. This winter I think I will read all 1789 poems again. Be interesting to see if I pick the same favorites as I did ten years ago.

  2. P.S.
    Re: “I heard a fly buzz when I died” —

    “American Haiku”

    I’ll kill that damn fly
    if it’s the last thing I do:
    bang, bang, bang, bang, bang!

    1. Ha! One of the things I had planned to say in the podcast, had there been a need for such filler, was how really un-American Dickinson has always seemed to me. Whitman, by contrast, was a total self-promoter and believer in BIGNESS. Can’t get more American that that.

  3. I listened to the whole thing, straight through. Mesmerizing. Maybe if I’d first heard Emily Dickinson like this, instead of in boring literature classes, I’d be more of a fan. Thanks for putting it together, and thanks for including me!

  4. Thanks for taking this on Dave — what an enlightening experience, to hear so many voices reading the work and so many meditations on the work. It’s interesting how few repeats there were.

    I loved Brenda’s reading of “Wild Nights.” Only Brenda could do that poem justice.

    And I loved the discussions of Dickinson’s metaphysics. It is true, I think, that Dickinson worked from a very complex metaphysics and a very complex prosody. The comparison to the Jesuits was interesting. Certainly she didn’t conform to the constraints of her day, the ecstacy of the great revival. (Or should that be Great Revival.) And yet she was capable of ecstacy, which I think is what most superficial readings of her work misses.

  5. Such a treat to listen to and participate in! The time flew!

    Thank you, Dave, for your willingness to throw a grand party, and so quickly! (You may/should be exhausted, but the “do” was wonderful.) And Happy Birthday to Ms. Dickinson, too.

    And to all of you who have increased my love for poetry, even more: xoxo

  6. Just wonderful, Dave. A chance to finally hear the voices of your many commenters whose names are so familiar. A chance to hear personal experiences and interpretations of Emily. A chance to hear poetry read with different accents from different parts of the world. A chance to feel not so bad that I find many of her poems hard to comprehend. A chance to find that my favorites are also the favorites of academia. My current Emily manta is a couple of verses most likely meant to be a serious poem about a traumatic event in her life, but to me, it’s the Partzheimers syndrome common to those in my age bracket. (grin)
    ‘I felt a cleavage in my mind
    As if my brain had split
    I tried to match it seam by seam
    But could not make them fit.
    The thought behind I strove to join
    Unto the thought before,
    But sequence raveled out of reach
    like balls upon the floor.’

    I’d look up the number of this one if I could remember where I put the book. :)

  7. Thanks Joan — and everyone! — for the warm reactions. I’ve always been worried that if a podcast went longer than 40 minutes, no one would listen, but so far I’ve heard from half a dozen non-participants who found it captivating, so I think we did all right! For me, compiling and listening to this podcast made me see ED in a new light — actually, in a number of new lights. For that I am deeply grateful.

  8. Dave –

    Finally got a chance to listen all the way through – it was a wonderful podcast. Maybe birthday tributes could become a more regular thing – it really was amazing to hear all the different voices, especially those who read the same poems. What the readers brought to the text was wonderful. Thanks for letting me be involved!

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