Emily’s Carib Cake?

Posted in cooking, poetry on October 9th, 2019 by admin – Comments Off on Emily’s Carib Cake?

Black Cake comes readily to mind when thinking of Emily Dickinson with her hands on a mixing bowl, pencil and paper ready at the side of her pastry board.

Her recipe for Black Cake uses an enormous number of eggs, pounds of sugar and flour, dried fruits, brandy and molasses.

It’s extremely rich, nay intoxicating, and with Emily Dickinson’s baking skill, her version was no doubt superb.

Black Cake is sometimes called fruit cake or, in the England of her Dickinson ancestors, this cake would be a holiday pudding.

In fact, this holiday pudding associated with England seems to have arrived in the Caribbean by way of the English lured to those islands to turn a profit from the triangular slave trade: human beings for sugar for rum.

Emily Dickinson was baking her Black Cake in mid-19th century New England. She was several generations removed from her English ancestors and their holiday fruit pudding.

And it appears to not be the version of fruit cake she made famous and for which her family clamored.

Her Black Cake resembles the version that emerged out of triangle trade; a cake perfected before her by bakers who were enslaved in the Caribbean.

As I learned from the Canadian poet, NourbeSe Philip, what makes the Black Cake of Trinidad and Tobago (where she was born) so distinctive in color and in flavor — and so prized — is the process of burning the sugar and the use of rum.

Emily Dickinson’s recipe, above, doesn’t call for the triangle trade’s rum but it does use copious amounts of the traded-for molasses — a substance that seems to have kept industrial Boston humming in profits in that same era (and beyond until the molasses flood anyway).

Slavery and its spectre were everywhere around this poet.

These thoughts about Emily Dickinson and her possible Caribbean-originated Black Cake were inspired by the evocative essay by NourbeSe Philip titled “Making Black Cake in Combustible Spaces” (in 21 – 19 from Milkweed). Highly recommended!

Talking History with Patrick Geoghegan

Posted in poetry on March 28th, 2019 by admin – Comments Off on Talking History with Patrick Geoghegan

Emily Dickinson: A Life

On Sunday, 7 April, Patrick Geohegan invites Emily Dickinson scholars Renee Berglund, Cristanne Miller, Aífe Murray, Martha Nell Smith & Marta Werner to discuss the work and life of Emily Dickinson.

The one hour show airs 7 pm in Dublin on Patrick’s Newstalk 106-108 FM show. In Emily’s Amherst that would be 3 pm and high noon Pacific time.

Listen button on upper right of Talking History

Show :   Podcast :   @newstalkfm

Someone’s in the kitchen with Dinah — it’s Emily

Posted in Justice, poetry on January 4th, 2017 by admin – Comments Off on Someone’s in the kitchen with Dinah — it’s Emily

The big story about Emily Dickinson isn’t simply that she was a foodie and well-reputed bakerbut who was in the kitchen with her.

Revealing a truly American tale,  the poet-daughter of a Yankee lawyer, of English stock, rubs elbows daily in the kitchen with immigrants, the descendants of slaves, and with Native American maids, laborers, gardeners, and seamstresses.

Among them was Margaret Maher, an Irish immigrant who, as cook and maid, spent 17 years sharing the kitchen with baker Emily.

At the top left of this Kelley family portrait — almost all of whom worked for the poet — is Tom Kelley, the man Emily requested as her chief pallbearer. Below is Native man and Dickinson laborer Henry Hawkins with his Native-African American granddaughter Helen in a snapshot taken in their backyard. Below them (on some but not all platforms) is a studio portrait of Henry’s mother-in-law, Eliza Thompson, who was often hired to serve guests at the Dickinson’s annual summer gatherings.

The well-loved myth of the recluse erases what was really going on — from maids and laborers exerting linguistic influences on her language to actually saving her poems from planned destruction.

For more drop in and tune up to the Kitchen Sisters upcoming show on Emily D’s hidden kitchen.

Emily’s Hidden Kitchen Sisters

Posted in Justice, poetry on December 28th, 2016 by admin – Comments Off on Emily’s Hidden Kitchen Sisters

Excellent podcast by the Kitchen Sisters on Emily D. as prolific baker with cameos by Jean Mudge and Chris Benfey and Brenda Hillman. They even covered the issue of the poet getting her poems completely changed by editors during her lifetime and afterward.

To deepen the story of prolific baker and writer ED, let’s add the image of a teen Emily feeling urgency about her writing and bleak despair over the burden of dishes and family care — then doing serious lobbying of the parents to get a maid. She succeeded when her parents hired her a kitchen-sister — otherwise all we’d have are some fabulous recipes and a much meager literary output.

Interesting? Check out Maid as Muse

New Material on Domestic Front

Posted in poetry on August 8th, 2016 by admin – Comments Off on New Material on Domestic Front

New materials  about the women and men who formed a part of Emily Dickinson’s domestic world may soon become available for virtual and onsite visitors to the Emily Dickinson Museum.

New partnerships in the Pioneer Valley are in the developing stages with a plan to give visitors and scholars access to new documents and photographs on the maids, laborers, gardeners, blacksmiths, and others who interacted with and formed an intimate part of the poet’s little seen world at home.

More details soon of what is in the nascent stage of an exciting initiative about Emily Dickinson, poet, left in photo, and Margaret Maid, maid, on right, and her domestic colleagues.

nothing, not nothing, but gorgeous, yes

Posted in poetry on December 1st, 2013 by admin – Comments Off on nothing, not nothing, but gorgeous, yes

If you think nothing equals the drama and beauty of your back-lit screen then you haven’t yet held The Gorgeous Nothings.

I’ve looked at many of Emily Dickinson’s poems in the original. I’ve donned the white cotton gloves and picked up the sheets and scraps, turning them over under the watchful eye of archivists.

I’ve gazed at amazing renditions on line at the brand new archive

I was then not prepared for my reaction to the new volume out from New Directions Press and a collaboration by the inestimable Marta Werner and Jen Bervin.

Envelope poems they are billed as. Little scraps of wonder.

I didn’t think I needed to own this book until it was placed in my hands

Can I say that these images are more real than the originals?

I just did. Stunningly tactile. It is a book of nothings, these scraps, and yet, here’s where the tout is accurate: gorgeous

Take my word or someone else’s but this treasure chest won’t disappoint

How public – like a frog

Posted in poetry on October 31st, 2013 by admin – Comments Off on How public – like a frog

Almost everything is right there at the brand new Emily Dickinson Archive.

Touch a button –

The poems that were piling on table top, folded to pocket size, enclosed in letters, bound into sets of pages folded to make small books, hand-sewn with the same stitch that fixes – – – – –

Or the poems written on the wing of an envelope, the back of an accounting sheet, a chocolate wrapper, and pharmacy flyer. You can see them just like that

Admiring Bog: go here for a look at each poem by E. Dickinson as if holding the original. Read about the behind-the-scenes thinking & more great examples here.

Emily’s Brief Rule

Posted in poetry on January 29th, 2013 by admin – Comments Off on Emily’s Brief Rule

Sit in your cell as in paradise.

Put the whole world behind you & forget it.

Watch your thoughts like a good fisherman watching for fish.

The path you must follow is in the Psalms—never leave it.

Emily Dickinson following the above Brief Rule of St. Romuald:

Standing with her niece, ED mimed the motion of turning a key in her bedroom door lock.  “It’s just a turn — and freedom, Matty!”

Sweet hours have perished here,
This is a mighty room –
Within its precincts hopes have played
Now shadows in the tomb.*

When writer Emily went downstairs — to bake or cook or garden or tend the plants of her conservatory — she carried her cell with her.

Forgot the world briefly, watched her thoughts like a fisher.

I’m doing that today. Remembering to forget. Watching for what’s visible when I pause —


*Revise! Make it your own poem: ED’s alternate words: timid for mighty; fallow for shadows

Shaggy Dog Story

Posted in poetry on December 9th, 2012 by admin – Comments Off on Shaggy Dog Story

Why do I avoid sitting down to write? Why do I fight something that “feels right” once I am actually doing it?

I turned to Emily Dickinson — my usual source of inspiration and whose 182nd birthday is today — and a look at her process to figure out how she moved past her resistance.

What I found was intriguing. Emily Dickinson transformed her writing barriers into a door to her work.

Emily Dickinson’s first writing strategy arrived in the form of a shaggy dog.

Read more at SheWrites…

Spain and Emily

Posted in poetry on December 2nd, 2012 by admin – Comments Off on Spain and Emily

Irreverent, bold, brilliant, artistically confident, slyly comic, notorious, sexy, revolutionary art pioneer…

Those words describe Emily Dickinson, the poet who passed away in May 1886,


Spain Rodriguez, the graphic artist who passed away in November 2012.

View some of Emily Dickinson’s writerly / visual work here

View some of Spain’s writerly / visual work here and a film by Susan Stern