Jun '02 [Home]

Event Review

"Called Back": Emily Dickinson Receives Her Due at the Bowery Poetry Club (06/8,9)

On the weekend of June 8-9, Emily Dickinson's 1,775 poems were presented in sequence. Enlivened by the voices of dozens of writer participants appearing in ten-minute relays, the poems were delivered with a variety of tone, pace, and interpretation that lent freshness and energy to each.

Saturday's noon to midnight chockablock roster included publishers, editors, series hosts, promoters, institutional program directors, professors, fiction writers, and essayists, each new on-the-hour contingent a network in miniature of the nerves and viscera that make up New York's thriving wordtrade. Quiet and attentive to Emily's every break, in the pauses the crowd became fluid, moving with the talk among the respective offerings of barman, barrista, and book table. Long after we'd left, the reading tribute continued into Sunday mid-morning—no doubt with participants who performed pretty much on nerves alone.

A panel was recently assembled at the New York Public Library to think aloud about the presence of factions in the poetry community and their effects. Operational since mid-Winter, but sleek and comfortable now, The Bowery Poetry Club has managed to provide a venue where groups with widely divergent aesthetic agendas can effectively time-share, each claiming a permanent home (308 Bowery near Houston). The Dickinson event was clearly conceived as one to reunify fragmented poetries around a common source. It succeeded. Even rarer, venue and concept combined to induce our subculture of the notoriously verbal to commit their instruments to the service of a singular voice.

Maggie Balistreri and Jen Benka executed this success, through outreach and highly professional organization, and took care to see that the results were video-recorded. The event program and web site they produced contained the schedule, certainly, but they also went to enormous effort to collect extensive bios of the participants. (emilyreading.com) Copies of Thomas H. Johnson's edition of The Complete Poems of Emily Dickinson used at the event were donated by AOL Time Warner Book Group.