What Would Emily Eat?

If Ms. Dickinson were making a jaunt to Seattle, would she have lunch at Cafe Presse on Capitol Hill?

How about that special elixir Seattle thinks it invented?

Would she drink espresso strong enough to “feel physically as if the top of her head were taken off?”

What do they put in that stuff she’s drinking?

How about those buttery dripping crumpets at the Crumpet Shop? Locavore tendencies? Terra Plata?

Emphatically yes.

My plan is to tour Seattle eateries and drinkeries where a poet would find inspiration of one kind or another.

My excuse is a talk I’m giving. So if you find yourself in Seattle on Friday, January 6, come hear me talk about the invisible but not the inaudible.

My illustrated presentation – “Warm in her Hand these accents lie” – is about the impact of her servants’ speech on Emily Dickinson’s poetry.

I’ll be in Room 303 of the Washington State Convention Center at noon describing how this poet was an auditory sponge who freely admitted to having a “vice for voices.”

As an artist she pulled language from every available palette including the speech of family, neighbors, friends, and servants.

We know she listened deeply because she seized the inner workings of other varieties of English heard in the intimacy of her own gardens and kitchen where she spent much of her time.

Emily Dickinson appears to have been strongly influenced by the Hiberno-English of Irish immigrant maids and laborers and the African American Vernacular English spoken by gardeners and stablemen who were descended from slaves.

Like all great artists, Emily Dickinson synthesized and improvised with the varieties of English which were her fortune. From her deep reading and listening, this home-centered writer forged a decidedly American poetic idiom.

Even when a maid freed her to run upstairs to write, though, she still gravitated back to the kitchen.

The good conversation, no doubt, and that’s where the food is.

Emily would definitely maximize a trip to Seattle by getting caffeine intoxicated and tucking into some great food. I plan to with or without her.

WWEE? And what will we eat? Le Pichet anyone? Matt’s in the Market?

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