This spring, Hannah took part in the third grade Living Wax Museum at her school, where kids research figures from history that they admire, write up a report to read aloud, create a posterboard display and then dress up like the person. Then the parents walk through this Living Wax Museum exhibit, prompting the kids to read their pieces aloud by dropping quarters into pails placed on the table on which their posterboards are displayed. The day of this event, I took a personal day off and our family visited the Emily Dickinson Homestead up in Amherst to soak Hannah in the atmosphere of the poet, but we soon found out Hannah had already learned quite a lot through her research beforehand and was able to comment on many of the things being pointed out on the tour.
Below is the piece she wrote to read aloud at the event. In the spirit of Emily, Hannah decided to write in verse rather than in prose, as the assignment was intended (her teacher was more than happy to honor the request, of course). Also in the spirit of respecting Emily, who only lived to see a handful of her poems published, each edited considerably without her input, I’ve decided to type up Hannah’s poem just as she wrote it, despite its occasional oddities.
The Life of Emily Dickinson
By Hannah Ricci-Westcott
My birthplace was Amherst, Massachusetts
My birthday was December 10
I have a great story to shout out with glory
And your ears I ask you to lend
The year was the end of 1830
New fame was aloft to tell
For nobody knew it was me
Who would have poems I wanted to sell
About when I was nine years old
I moved to the Pleasant Street Homestead
Where there was plenty of forsythia
And plenty of journal pages to be fed
I’ve about 2,000 poems
My next stanza’s the first one
I never knew I’d be famous
Before death all my work’s all but done
“The mushroom is the elf of plants
At Evening he is not
At morning, in a truffled hut
It stops upon a spot”
I did not know what my future was
My poems were not discovered
And over some scraps of paper
My pen simply hovered…
Then when I was finished
I stuffed poems in my dresser
And after my death, sister Lavinia
Found my poems which obsessed her
I just wanted to write about the world
Never was prepared for fame
I’m a woman- too weak
But then a thought came:
“Could I not just write?
It is not against the law.”
When I started up my poems
It was then I finally saw
That it was my best talent!
And I was right! Yet again
My poems were created in nature and zen
I was the first poet
With words of brand-new style
No one knows what I really meant
When I said butterflies kiss on the tile
It means love, love, love, my dear
So now you surely know
That I know how to be different
And make poems that are not just so
I’ve inspired people to write poems
Poems about nature, to say
This is my last word
To you, I hope a good day
My real name is actually Hannah, and I have to say that Emily has inspired me to write poems about nature. She was a great go-getter, and when her older brother Austin went to college but she couldn’t, she was greatly vexed. She knew that she was by far the very smartest and brightest in her family. I follow in her footsteps and make poems when I feel like it, not when I am forced to. But I make poems by myself best often. She’s awesome and I feel very close to her, since Amherst is close to Hardwick.
And here is one of Hannah's aforementioned nature poems from her own pen:
The dawn is new and rising
Its swift bird sweeps over the grass
The little child runs over it
And into the fieldy mass
Nonetheless, I think my own favorite of her works so far is the following one:
Brought by the shadows of whom
Never wished to know
The language of below.
Their whispers always drift aloft
Always gone of wind,
A ring is worn alone
Only to wait and slip.
All too soon comes a breeze
The curtains part, the winds whistle.
Though birth will never break the spell
And doors will click and twist,
Sheet will ripple,
And heads will blur unknowingly.
Tears will drop, but never fall,
Or it shall be made into ink of dread
It will write on your heart invisibly, silently,
Leaving you no choice.