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The 11th annual Tell It Slant Poetry Festival unites poets at the altar of Emily Dickinson

The Emily Dickinson Homestead in Amherst.Patrick Fecher/Courtesy of the Homestead Museum

Starting Monday, 1,789 of Emily Dickinson’s poems will be recited as part of a weeklong poetry marathon, the cornerstone of the 2023 Tell It Slant Poetry Festival hosted by the Emily Dickinson Museum. The marathon is virtual, but many of the free festival’s other activities are hybrid — IRL at Dickinson’s home in Amherst and streaming online. The 11th annual festival runs Sept. 25-Oct. 1 and includes workshops, panels, and readings for more than 20 events honoring Dickinson’s legacy. (The festival’s branding is even stylized with an aptly italicized Slant, a nod to Dickinson’s famous line: “Tell all the truth but tell it slant —”.)

Friday’s Tell It Slant Awards will honor poets Marilyn Nelson and Abigail Chabitnoy as well as Alena Smith, the creator of “Dickinson,” the Apple+ TV series that introduced a new generation of fans to the poet, and the museum’s founders. Nelson, who’s had a long and deep relationship with the late poet and the museum, told the Globe she is “honored to be considered in relationship to Dickinson. She’s one of the immortals.”


On Saturday, Nelson and Chabitnoy will headline the Late Night Garden Party, under a tent in Dickinson’s Amherst garden. The event will also be streamed live. Brooke Steinhauser, senior program director of the museum, said the event will feature discussion from “the unforgettable pairing” of Nelson and Chabitnoy, followed by live music, refreshments, and book signings.

Sunday will also mark the first public use of the Spectacular Translation Machine in the US. According to Regina Galasso, a professor at UMass Amherst and the director of The Translation Center, there will be a space outfitted with human translators and printed dictionaries in several languages to encourage participants to “engage with Dickinson’s text in an intimate way” and “grow awareness of how translation impacts our lives as readers and writers and to show how appreciation of Dickinson’s poetry can be gained (rather than lost) in translation.”


Brookline-based Deb Polansky is a longtime participant in the festival and self-proclaimed “Emmist.” She said that attending the festival has introduced her to previously unknown contemporary poets who have “swept her off her feet” and helped her hear Dickinson’s poetry in a new way. For Polansky, the communal aspect of the festival is “the best part” and belonging to the avid community of Dickinson admirers has taken the whole experience “to the next level.”

The Emily Dickinson Museum, consisting of the Homestead (Dickinson’s home) and Evergreens, her brother and sister-in-law’s home next door, was established in 2003. Jane Wald, the museum’s executive director, sees great cause for celebration in its 20th anniversary year.

Following the completion of the museum’s two-year restoration project in 2022, Wald said the museum can now focus on the future, “amplifying Emily Dickinson’s poetic voice from the place she called home and sustaining the museum as a place where Dickinson’s readers and those who embody her spirit in their creative work can meet on common ground and share their vision.”

The Tell It Slant Poetry Festival is important tothe museum’s mission. Wald said that museum visitors have nearly quadrupled since it opened, and the museum’s online programming, begun by necessity during the pandemic, has expanded its reach to Dickinson aficionados around the US and to over 70 countries across the globe.



Sept. 25-Oct. 1, virtual and in person. Free.

Betsy Groban can be reached at