Friday, April 16, noon
Presented by the Moline Public Library
One of the most important and influential figures in literature will be celebrated in a special Moline Public Library presentation on April 16, with storyteller and historic interpreter Paddy Lynn appearing in the one-woman show Meet Emily Dickinson, the Belle of Amherst, an intimate look into the life of one of the most most preeminent American poets of the 19th century.
Born in 1930 into a prominent family residing in Amherst, Massachusetts, Dickinson studied at the Amherst Academy for seven years in her youth, and briefly attended the Mount Holyoke Female Seminary before returning to her family's house. Evidence suggests that Dickinson lived much of her life in isolation. Considered an eccentric by locals, she developed a penchant for white clothing and was known for her reluctance to greet guests or, later in life, to even leave her bedroom. Dickinson never married, and most friendships between her and others depended entirely upon correspondence. While she was a prolific writer, Dickinson's only publications during her lifetime were one letter and a mere 10 of her nearly 1,800 poems, most of them significantly to fit conventional poetic rules. Her poems were unique for her era, containing short lines, typically lack titles, and often employing slant rhyme as well as unconventional capitalization and punctuation. Many of her poems deal with themes of death and immortality, two recurring topics in letters to her friends, and also explore aesthetics, society, nature and spirituality.
Although Dickinson's acquaintances were most likely aware of her writing, it was not until after her death in 1886 – when Dickinson's younger sister Lavinia discovered her cache of poems – that her work became public. Her first collection of poetry was published in 1890 by personal acquaintances Thomas Wentworth Higginson and Mabel Loomis Todd, though both heavily edited the content. A 1998 New York Times article revealed that of the many edits made to Dickinson's work, the name "Susan" was often deliberately removed. At least 11 of Dickinson's poems were dedicated to sister-in-law Susan Huntington Gilbert Dickinson, though all the dedications were obliterated, presumably by Todd. A complete, mostly unaltered collection of her poetry became available for the first time when scholar Thomas H. Johnson published The Poems of Emily Dickinson in 1955.
In the Moline Library presentation, audiences are welcomed into Dickinson's home as they hear her share her fondest memories of life in Amherst. The poet speaks of her childhood, life before and after the Civil War, and all the important people who surrounded her, and Meet Emily Dickinson viewers are invited to delight in her emotional and intellectual charm – as well as all of her eccentricities – as presenter Paddy Lynn shares some of the artist's most memorable poems. An author of nearly 20 books, Lynn has worked as a writer, director, and actor for Chicago-area theatres, served as artistic director for the Kirk Players Community Theatre for 16 years, and also presents one-woman shows on famed figures including Harriet Beecher Stowe and Beatrix Potter, plus numerous characters from Lee Edgar Masters' Spoon River Anthology.
Meet Emily Dickinson, the Belle of Amherst will be presented virtually at noon on April 16, and although the event is free, registration is required to receive an online Zoom link. For more information on the program, call (309)524-2470 or visit MolineLibrary.com.