University at Buffalo - The State University of New York
Skip to Content
UBNow

News and views for UB faculty and staff

Campus News

Marathon poetry reading will recite all 1,786 Emily Dickinson poems

Scholars universally acknowledge Dickinson, along with Walt Whitman, to be one of the two most important poets in the history of American literature.

By BERT GAMBINI

Published April 18, 2017

“Even if you think you don’t like poetry, you’re likely to hear something that will get you thinking in a new way or a more profound way.”
Cristanne Miller, SUNY Distinguished Professor and Edward H. Butler Professor
Department of English

Buffalo Mayor Byron Brown; Nancy Wells, UB’s vice president for philanthropy and alumni relations; and Robin Shulze, dean of the College of Arts and Sciences, will be among those participating in this year’s Emily Dickinson Community Marathon Reading.

The event will take place from 8 a.m. to 9:30 p.m. April 22 at Westminster Presbyterian Church, 724 Delaware Ave., Buffalo.

Presented as part of National Poetry Month, the UB Department of English and Just Buffalo Literary Center will welcome readers all day. Anyone can drop by and read a Dickinson poem as part of a community-wide effort to recite Dickinson’s complete body of work — almost 1,800 poems — in a single day.

“As a department, we are committed to making literature a living part of everyone’s life,” says Cristanne Miller, SUNY Distinguished Professor and Edward H. Butler Professor of English at UB. “We’re working with Just Buffalo in the hope of attracting the widest possible audience to participate in reading poems so beautiful and so powerful that they can change lives, or help restore the spirit, or just remind people of the value of using and hearing beautifully crafted language and ideas.”

Miller, a leading authority of Dickinson’s poetry, recently released a major annotated edition, “Emily Dickinson’s Poems: As She Preserved Them,” which will be the text used for the marathon. Multiple copies of this text will be provided at the reading. Participants will join the reading circle where they find, or can share, a text and then read the next poem in sequence when it is their turn.

Scholars universally acknowledge Dickinson, along with Walt Whitman, to be one of the two most important poets in the history of American literature, according to Miller. She says their influence on the development of poetry in the U.S. and around the world has been greater than that of any other poets the country has produced.

But the marathon, previously held in 2009 and 2013, isn’t limited to scholars or devotees. It’s for everyone interested in listening to the music of poetry heard in a chorus of community voices.

“Even if you think you don’t like poetry, you’re likely to hear something that will get you thinking in a new way or a more profound way. Dickinson’s poetry is extraordinary because there is always something that she’s giving you,” Miller says. “There are always things I hear in her work that I’ve never heard before.”

In addition to the day’s readings, from 1-1:30 p.m. there will also be a comedy improv in response to Dickinson’s poetry and local singers will perform Dickinson’s poetry as set to shape-note hymns.

“The whole day will be such a pleasure,” Miller says.  And not without its light-hearted moments.

“We don’t analyze the poetry or allow guests to choose specific poems,” she points out.

“The last time we had a marathon reading, our host, Rev. Thomas Yorty, Westminster’s pastor, took his turn when this poem came up in the sequence.”

Some keep the Sabbath going to Church –
I keep it, staying at Home –

“There’s always some laughter at these events,” she says.

More information on the marathon and a complete list of the marathon sponsors is available online.

READER COMMENT

I thought this was every year and was sad when I thought it was not happening anymore. So glad it's back!

 

Maryanne Loebs