Emily Dickinson Reading Marathon

May 1, 2014 / By: UST English Department
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A word is dead, when it is said  
Some say –
I say it just begins to live  
That day

--Poem No. 278

On April 25th, almost 200 people from the UST community (students, faculty, staff, administrators) and the larger Twin Cities community participated in an Emily Dickinson marathon reading, which was held in honor of National Poetry Month. The event was organized by Dr. Erika Scheurer of the UST English Department and Julie Kimlinger of the O'Shaughnessy-Frey Library Center, with assistance provided by the Luann Dummer Center for Women and complimentary copies of Ralph W. Franklin's The Poems of Emily Dickinson donated by Common Good Books. After the event, all 15 copies of the books were awarded to people who had put their name in a raffle box.

Starting at 8am, the goal of the marathon was to read all of Emily Dickinson's poems--from no. 1 to no. 1789. Those who participated sat in a circle and read the poems in turn, with readers and listeners coming and going throughout the day until the final poem was read around 9:30pm. Most of Dickinson's poems are short and only took a minute or so to read; as Scheurer notes: “The idea is to savor the language and live in the mystery of her poems. And to have some fun, too.”

While some marathons like this feature scheduled celebrity readers and prominent scholars, “we like the idea of a more democratic marathon,” Scheurer said. “Everyone who shows up can join the circle of readers. It’s great to hear the poems in a variety of voices: a football player, then a college president, then a child, a professor, a neighbor, a first-year student going for extra credit, a senior citizen … .”

Scheurer and students in her graduate Dickinson seminar had a number of posters and interactive displays on hand, including copies of some original manuscripts. She was known for writing many of her poems on scraps of paper or the backs of envelopes. While Dickinson is regarded as one of the United States’ best-known poets, fewer than a dozen of her works were published while she was alive. Most of her poems were found in a locked chest after her death in 1886, at the age of 55.

Check out these websites for local news reports about this fun event:

MPR “live interview”: http://www.mprnews.org/story/2014/04/25/daily-circuit-dickinson-poem-marathon

Star Tribune: http://www.startribune.com/local/stpaul/256458901.html

Pioneer Press: http://www.twincities.com/Opinion/PP%20Editorials/ci_25588255/Friday-Opinuendo:-On-donors-a-day

MinnPost: http://www.minnpost.com/artscape/2014/04/minnesotans-win-major-arts-awards-st-paul-art-crawl-begins

KARE 11 TV: https://www.facebook.com/groups/159563304655/ http://www.kare11.com/story/life/2014/04/25/emily-dickinson-poetry-marathon-university-of-st-thomas/8163787/ https://twitter.com/janashortal/status/459805728207683584/photo/1