Arts Briefs: Emily Dickinson poetry festival in Amherst; more art at UMass; honoring former slaves at Porter-Phelps

  • The Tell It Slant Poetry Festival will celebrate the work of Emily Dickinson from Sept. 25 to Oct. 1 with multiple in-person and online events. Image from Emily Dickinson Museum website

  • “A Conversation with Sparrows,” by painter Imo Nse Imeh, is part of a new exhibition, “The Miracle Machine,” at the Augusta Savage Gallery at UMass Amherst.  Image courtesy Augusta Savage Gallery

  • A ceremony on Sept. 23 will honor six people who were once enslaved at the historic Porter-Phelps-Huntington House in Hadley. Staff Photo/Dan Little

Wednesday, September 20, 2023
In celebration of Emily: Tell It Slant Festival begins Sept. 25

AMHERST — The annual celebration of The Belle of Amherst returns starting Sept. 25 when the Tell It Slant Poetry Festival brings a wealth of readings, workshops, and other events to town and the internet.

The festival’s live events, which take place at the Emily Dickinson Museum, include the “Spectacular Translation Machine,” in which participants can take part in an effort to turn Dickinson’s poems and letters into different languages.

Tell It Slant, which runs through Oct. 1, also includes a wealth of online and hybrid events, including the popular “Poetry Marathon,” for which audience members take turns reading all of Dickinson’s 1,789 poems.

Other highlights include readings of her work by poets from around the country such as Marilyn Nelson and Abigail Chabitnoy, a screening of Apple TV+’s “Dickinson” with creator Alena Smith, and generative writing workshops.

You can register for the event by visiting emilydickinsonmuseum.org.

Also of note: With the help of some grant funding, the Dickinson Museum has just established an online catalog database consisting of more that 8,000 artifacts related to the poet and her family, including fine art, cookware, clothing and textiles, children’s toys, and souvenir objects from travels abroad.

It’s the largest and most diverse assemblage of objects associated with Emily Dickinson and her family to be found anywhere, according to the museum, and as such offers new details about life in 19th century Amherst as well as the writing habits of the famous poet.

Museum Director Jane Wald says funding from the Institute for Museum and Library Services was crucial in allowing the museum “to improve our management of these thousands of Dickinson family objects.”

The collection can be accessed at emilydickinsonmuseum.catalogaccess.com.


More art at UMass

AMHERST — The Augusta Savage Gallery at the University of Massachusetts Amherst has opened its fall exhibit, “The Miracle Machine,” a group show that’s designed to examines themes of “identity, belonging, brotherhood, and Blackness.”

The show includes visual art from several contributors, as well as textual installations and video by poet and spoken word artist Aaron Joseph St. Louis and a sound installation by musician Kevin Mason.

The exhibit leader, painter Imo Nse Imeh, a professor of art and art history at Westfield State University, says the diverse perspectives of the contributing artists offer “an engaging journey through the intersections of visual art, storytelling, and soundscapes.”

“The chance of play, the chance of mystery, is at the root of this collaboration,” Imeh said in a statement. “It is a part of us, it will grow with us, and there is power in that.”

Also at UMass, Hampden Gallery has opened its new season with “Selective Memory” by Scottish artist Moray Hillary, a collection of 225 miniature paintings that are designed to create a “poetic dialogue” in the space.

Some of the paintings depict fragments of cityscapes, quiet pathways or undefined spaces. Others include everyday objects such as a typewriter, a sink, and a shoe, with their intimate scale designed to encourage viewers to move in closely.


Honoring former slaves

HADLEY — The Porter-Phelps-Huntington House Museum, in partnership with the nonprofit group Ancestral Bridges, will honor the memory of six people enslaved at the historic home and farm in the 18th century.

The ceremony, which takes place Sept. 23 from 2 to 4 p.m., will include placing commemorative stones for Zebulon Prutt, Cesar Phelps, Margaret (Peg) Bowen, her daughters Rosanna and Phillis, and granddaughter Phillis, who were all enslaved at the farmstead in the mid- to late 1700s.

In addition, there will readings of work by Frederick Douglass and the biographies of the six people by state Rep. Daniel Carey, writer and Harvard University professor Tiya Miles, and others.

Music will be part of the event, as well as contributions from storytellers Onawumi Jean Moss and Shirley Jackson Whitaker.