Organized by Amherst College’s Emily Dickinson Museum and held Sept. 20–23, the sixth annual Amherst Poetry Festival brought together poetry lovers of all ages for a weekend of special events, including an evening of poetry in Bassett Planetarium, a master class with Amherst’s new Writer-in-Residence Shayla Lawson, and a marathon reading of all 1,789 of Emily Dickinson’s poems.
The festival kicked off Thursday night with “Doughnuts and Death: A Baker’s Dozen of Emily Dickinson’s Most Depressing Poems” at Emily Dickinson’s grave in West Cemetery, followed by an outdoor screening of the dramatic comedy Wild Nights with Emily and a Q&A with filmmaker Madeleine Olnek.
On Friday, New York-based “Astro Poets” Dorothea Lasky and Alex Dimitrov filled Amherst’s Bassett Planetarium with poetry and astrology under the projected Sagittarian night sky. (The pair write a monthly column in W magazine and have a popular Twitter account, @PoetAstrologers, that mixes humor and pop culture references with moments of sincerity about the sun and the stars.)
Participants gathered bright and early (at 6 a.m.!) Saturday morning to begin the Emily Dickinson Poetry Marathon, a one-day reading of all 1,789 of Dickinson’s poems, which lasted well into the evening hours.
“Ghosts and Demons,” a poetry master class in The Powerhouse with Lawson (right) and Lasky (left), led the Saturday afternoon schedule.
That same day, Lawson gave a reading with poet Ocean Vuong at the late-night Garden Party in Emily Dickinson’s garden.
The festival concluded Sunday with the jubilat/Jones Reading series at the Jones Library in downtown Amherst. Physician and poet Rafael Campo ’87 read from his poetry collections Alternative Medicine and Diva before answering questions from the audience.