(Photo credit: Tyler Brown) Professor Russ Burrows elevates poet Emily Dickinson as being second to none, during this week's Weber Read series lecture Tuesday.
(Photo by Tyler Brown) Professor Russ Burrows claims poet Emily Dickinson is second to none during this week’s Weber Read series lecture on Tuesday.

This year, the Weber Reads program has focused on American poet Emily Dickinson. Russ Burrows, an English professor of 20 years at Weber State University, presented his chapter of the Weber Reads series on Tuesday.

“She lived big,” Burrows said. “Emily was shy and retiring by nature, but she was not your typical hermit. She had lots of discourse with many influential and notable people. . . . She’s second to none of our poets, and I think we’d all be better off if we were acquainted with our best writers. We’ve had none better.”

In his lecture, Burrows showcased not only Dickinson’s literature, but also her life, highlighting her relationship with Samuel Bowles, the editor of “The Springfield Republican,” a paper in which many of Dickinson’s poems were published.

“She sent him a lot of letters and poems, but his letters are lost,” Burrows said. “If they were ever recovered, there would be grounds for a new book to be published. Their relationship was a mix of romantic and professional interest, though he was happily married and not tempted by the young poet.”

According to Burrows, while Bowles enjoyed Dickinson’s poetry, he didn’t recognize the talent he had found in her, not publishing her as often as she’d hoped, and editing her work when he did, much to her dismay.

The Weber Reads program has operated through WSU and the public library system of Weber County since 2007, promoting literacy and the study of history and humanities for six years.

According to the Weber Reads website, “Weber Reads links individuals, communities, and cultures through reading, contemplation, and group discussion of books, both fiction and non-fiction, that stimulate us to make connections where we noticed none before — between our ancestors and ourselves, between one culture and another, between the community and the individual. . . . Weber Reads also provides opportunities for people to read, reflect, and engage in meaningful dialogue, framed around a work of literature — a work which helps illuminate experiences and beliefs that transcend group values to unite us as human beings.”

Kate Richards, a junior at WSU, showed support toward the program’s aims.

“I think it is important to be in touch with literature, because it can help us become masters at our own language . . . Communication is an art,” she said. “It helps us not lose touch with reality and maintain the art of communication.”

Burrows summed up how the program works thus: “Weber Reads is a cooperative endeavor to get people in Weber County to read a good piece of literature every year. Last year we read ‘Huckleberry Finn’ and ‘Tom Sawyer.’ This year we’re celebrating Emily Dickinson.”

Starting with “Beowulf,” the Weber Reads program has moved through literary classics, encompassing works such as “Frankenstein,” and also included many important documents from the founding fathers in the series. According to Burrows, Dickinson was chosen this year for her impact on modern poetry and literature.

“Often we think poetry had to rhyme, but another great measure of talent is compression, where the poet figures out how to say a lot in few words, and there have been none better in this regard than Emily Dickinson. Her ability to make a startling metaphor is sometimes as good as Shakespeare.”
The Weber Reads program is open to the public and free of charge. Information on times and locations for the remaning Weber Reads events on Dickinson and her work is available at http://community.weber.edu/weberreads.
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