Experimental Dickinson: How can interdisciplinary improvised performance re-frame Emily Dickinson’s rhythms and tropes to communicate an innovative, ‘authentic’ interpretation of her own temporal experience?

Suzie Hanna, Nicole Panizza

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


The subject of this article is the creation of a collaborative improvised multidisciplinary performance that invites the audience to consider the authentic temporal experience of a day in the life of the poet Emily Dickinson. The underpinning research focuses on her envelope writings, her daily domestic rituals, and her own sonic world in which she practised and performed, as evidenced in her folio of piano pieces and popular songs. Dickinson’s miniature envelope writings, or fragments, create small windows into her daily observations, feelings and experience. Repetitive duties such as cooking, sewing and ironing left small moments in-between for writing down her inspirations, feelings and reflections. Her accomplishment as a piano player involved another repetitive daily experience in the attendant practice and finger exercises. Ballads that she sang would segué into the rhythm of Dickinson’s poetry. The fragments could themselves be interpreted as small balladries sung in snatches.

Responding to these miniature texts, the performance piece animates original imagery and uses contemporaneous sources, materials and techniques as a basis for the projected elements. The purpose of the performance and attendant workshops is to facilitate an immersive venture into the poet’s process, her seizing of moments for expression. Through the use of experiment and improvisation where fragments, songs and piano pieces from her folio are re-presented with VJ visuals, there is a constant sense of possibility as new sonic, poetic and visual metaphors unfold.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-30
Number of pages30
Publication statusIn preparation - 25 Jan 2020



  • Music
  • Performance Studies
  • Literature
  • American Studies
  • Gender Studies
  • Animation

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