Friday, February 12, 2010

Emily Dickinson: "The Belle of Amherst"—or "The Spinster of Amherst"?

A month from now, the Emily Dickinson Museum will sponsor a performance of William Luce's now-classic play, "The Belle of Amherst," featuring Barbara Dana. The title comes from a letter that Emily wrote at the age of 14, proving, among other things, that the later recluse was quite a normal adolescent, though already showing signs of both the literary sensibility and wry humor that would mark her mature work:
I expect I shall be the belle of Amherst when I reach my 17th year.
I don't doubt that I shall have perfect crowds of admirers at that age.
—Emily Dickinson to Abiah Root, 7 May 1845
Emily was mentioned tonight in a different context during the combined concert of the Hurricane Singers and Symphonic Orchestra at the regional high school. The program featured, "Heart, We Will Forget Him," a setting of Dickinson poetry by David Dickau. Addressing the audience between numbers, Singers Director Anita Cooper observed:
That's what every Valentine's Day concert needs: another break-up poem by Emily Dickinson, Amherst's spinster poet. And now we go to a song about a man and a mule: "The Erie Canal."
In the meantime, if you need a dose of Emily and the arts, an excerpt from the new ballet, "Emily of Amherst," will be part of the annual "Love Notes" charitable fundraiser on Valentine's Day.

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