An evening of Emily Dickinson to serve up poet’s works and her famous cake

By Costa Maragos Posted: October 25, 2017 3:00 p.m.

 An evening of Dickinson readings will be presented by Broadway actress Barbara Dana (l) and Dr. Cindy MacKenzie (r), Associate Professor in English along with a serving of Dickinson’s famous Black Cake.
An evening of Dickinson readings will be presented by Broadway actress Barbara Dana (l) and Dr. Cindy MacKenzie (r), Associate Professor in English along with a serving of Dickinson’s famous Black Cake. Photo courtesy of Nicolle Nugent

A special treat is in store for those attending this month’s Thursday Lates event at the MacKenzie Art Gallery.  

The University of Regina and the MacKenzie Art Gallery are presenting The Art of Consolation in the Poetry and Letters of Emily Dickinson on Thursday, October 26 at 7:00 p.m.
 
The readings feature recognized Dickinson scholar Dr. Cindy MacKenzie, Associate Professor in the English Department, and Barbara Dana, author and Broadway actress.

This free, public event will be capped off with a special treat.

Dickinson Poster
Event goers will be served a piece of the famous Dickinson Black Cake, made the same way as the 19th-century poet made it.

“An evening of Dickinson readings and reflections would not be the same without a serving of her Black Cake,” says MacKenzie, who baked the cake with the help of a colleague, using Dickinson’s own recipe. “It’s a fruit cake but very, very heavy. It has 19 eggs, two pounds each of flour, sugar, butter and six pounds of raisins and currants. It’s one of Dickinson’s favourite recipes and it tastes great.”

The cake is just one part of an evening that is sure to satisfy anyone who attends.

MacKenzie and Dana will read poems and letters from Dickinson’s works.  

The evening will feature a performance by Barbara Dana, dressed in Dickinson’s signature white dress, performing an excerpt from the Belle of Amherst – a one-woman play that brings to life the poet’s private thoughts, her wit and charm.
 
MacKenzie met Dana in 2002 through their involvement in the Emily Dickinson International Society.

They collaborated on the book Wider than the Sky – Essays and Meditations on the Healing Power of Emily Dickinson and they've maintained a friendship ever since.

“We met at that meeting and we started to chat and I started telling her about this idea that reading Dickinson provided consolation for various challenges in life,” says MacKenzie. “Barbara felt the same way, so we brought our skills together.”

The two have collaborated on several readings, including one in Regina in 2009. This is Dana’s second visit to the city.
 
“Attending a poetry reading and performance is a magical experience that inspires meanings not easily explained,” says MacKenzie. “The entry into the intricate play of the poet’s words – her language – creates a meditative state that inspires and consoles.”

Dickinson led a reclusive life at her home in Amherst, Massachusetts. Her works rose to prominence after she died in 1886.  She produced almost 1800 poems and over 1,000 letters.

“Dickinson’s popularity is evidenced by the many references to her and her poetry in books, television, and recently in the movie – A Quiet Passion,” says MacKenzie, who is currently the editor of the Scholars Series in the Emily Dickinson International Society Bulletin, and former board member of the Emily Dickinson International Society.

 MacKenzie has published A Concordance to the Letters of Emily Dickinson and Reading Emily Dickinson’s Letters and numerous journal articles. She’s currently teaching a graduate class on Dickinson.

Dana can also lay claim to being a Dickinson expert. She’s the author of A Voice of Her Own – Becoming Emily Dickinson – which imagines the poet’s life as a young girl.

“The grouping of poems and letters, along with Barbara’s powerful performance, will no doubt inspire thoughts about Dickinson’s dynamic inner world and questions of the vicissitudes, and triumphs of the human spirit that will offer food for thought for some time to come,” says MacKenzie.
 
A sweet treat for the Regina audience who for at least one evening will have their cake, and eat it too.
 
The Art of Consolation in the Poetry and Letters of Emily Dickinson is presented by the University of Regina, the Arts Faculty and the Department of English in collaboration with the MacKenzie Art Gallery.

Event:      Emily Dickinson readings
Date:       Thursday, October 26
Time:       7:00 pm
Location: MacKenzie Art Gallery – 3475 Albert St.
This event is free and open to the public.