Posted by: jeannineatkins | April 20, 2016

Writing in Emily Dickinson’s Bedroom

Late snow in Massachusetts shortened the forsythia season and daffodils drooped. But the daffodils that waited for warmer weather to bloom now stand tall. Buds and even blossoms color tips of branches. And on gorgeous yesterday, I got to write in Emily Dickinson’s bedroom. I’m still swooning.


On Teacher Tuesday, the Emily Dickinson Homestead welcomes educators into that quiet second story room as the sun goes down before the lace and velvet framed windows. A few chairs were lined up across from roped-off bed. Docent, author, and my friend Burleigh Muten had invited me to join her as she gave creative prompts to a small group. We’d been welcomed by the staff who seemed as delighted to see us as if we’d come bearing gingerbread, without querying our particular status as teachers or Dickinson devotees. I’ve loved touring the house before, but it was different to be there with just my eyes, not so much listening for stories of nineteenth century customs or responding to people in a tour group. Instead we took more intimate steps toward the poet who spent so much of her life in this house on Main Street in Amherst.

Burleigh gave writing prompts that related to Emily Dickinson’s work. Some participants read some of what we wrote there, some just listened, and one chose even not to write but to just sit in that room, watching the light fall on a small desk of the sort that Burleigh told us was often used for sewing. Weighing less than a big pumpkin, the desk could be carried from one window to another for the warmth or better light. I wrote some lines related to my current novel as well as this:

This is no kitchen with spilled molasses,

cinnamon, and conversation.

Silent light divides the folded paper

on the slanting plane of the desktop

with no room for swinging elbows.

Words are measured like stitches:

not much larger than a needle, no wider than a thimble.


And then she looks back at the sky.

FullSizeRender (31)




  1. I’m swooning just reading this post. What a wonderful experience!! Love what you wrote. Thanks for sharing. 🙂

  2. What a wonderful day. Your poem lets us into those moments so beautifully.

  3. Beautiful, Jeannine! the experience and your words. I love how “silent light divides the folded paper.”

  4. So lovely, Jeannine! I’ve always wanted to visit this house too. No surprise it was an inspiration :).

    I love these lines: Words are measured like stitches:

    not much larger than a needle, no wider than a thimble.

    It describes the depth of her poetry so well!

  5. Wow! Lucky you! I’m sure you’ll carry the inspiration and memory of sitting and writing there for a long, long time.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s


%d bloggers like this: