Posted by: jeannineatkins | May 18, 2013

Poetry Along the Way: Walking to Emily Dickinson’s Grave

The Emily Dickinson Museum sponsors an annual walk from the Homestead on Main Street in Amherst to a nearby cemetery to mark the poet’s death in May of 1886.  This year I stood in the garden with about forty others, including five mother-daughter pairs, one dog named Phoebe, a young woman in a white dress (strapless), one man with a bunch of daisies, and one woman wearing a “I’m Nobody, Who are you?” t-shirt.  Some read poems around the theme of house there, then we walked down a green path to Evergreens, the house next door where Emily’s beloved sister-in-law lived. I was among those who read there, Poem 1609, which begins, “Who has not found the Heaven – below –/ Will fail of it above –“  The microphones weren’t great, and we competed with noise from trucks, cars, and lawnmowers, but while it would be good to hear the poems from beginnings to ends, while breathing the scent of lilacs, picking up phrases was quite satisfactory. And noticing the effects of all those dashes read, or not-read, aloud.

More people read at the church across the street, which Emily Dickinson did not attend, it was pointed out, then between a gas station where her first home once stood and West Cemetery. Along our way we lost a few people and gained others.


We passed this mural, painted on the backs of shops. That’s the poet on the left, amid flowers. Another woman with a camera told me, “I didn’t know about this. Isn’t it great? And when I parked the meter already had two hours in it.”


Even those of us who paid full for parking were pretty happy, standing by the gravestone surrounded by buttercups, violets, and clover, with people taking out well-worn complete works of Dickinson, while the rest of us listened to more favorites. Pink or yellow lemonade was poured, so we all could toast Emily Dickinson.


I love this little box, held up, I believe, with baling twine, which contained folded poems and messages from well-wishers. We were invited back to the Homestead, which was open late that afternoon at no charge, but I headed to the library to pick up a few books, and write down a few phrases on their hopeful way to being poems.



  1. Reblogged this on allaboutmanners.

  2. What a fun event! I love happening on the birth or death place of someone from literature, and having a chance to come in and pay respects. That sounds like a lovely walk.

    • Of course a lot of time has passed, but the paying of respects is truly celebratory, and this person has left us so treasures to connect through.

  3. very nice interestingxx

  4. Can’t wait for YOUR poems!

    • Aw, thanks, Mary Lee. I’m feeling the creative burn anyway!

  5. Love this!

    • Wish you were there!

      • Me too :)! I’d opt for pink lemonade . . .

  6. Reblogged this on Southeast Valley Writers Alliance.

  7. I wore the white dress hehe.. What a beautiful and amazing that day was. It was my first time visiting.. And one of my best days 🙂 So much fun. I was so happy to be there, I was on the brink of tears all afternoon!

    • Oh, thank you for stopping to say hello! The dress caught my eye, but the rapture on your face really made me smile. What a great day — and while I wouldn’t wish today’s weather on any Memorial Day weekend plans, I’m glad we had May sun.

      • *Day that was ..Oops! Typing too fast 😮

        Thank you for your kind words 🙂
        I was really beside myself that day! I read her poetry often, and try to place myself in her mind.. to be there, where she spent most of her days, was such an incredible experience for me. I was breathing it all in, trying to grasp how she had perceived this life. Looking out those windows, walking through the rooms and the garden. It was surreal. ..and yes.. (Before I write a book here) What gorgeous weather we had!! ..This weekend was a wash.. But now I hear it’ll reach the 90’s by week’s end 😮 I half expected snow haha ..Only in New England lol

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