even more emily: poetic wanderings in Amherst, MA


Given my disturbingly cheerful bubblegum-mermaid persona, the fact that I’m fond of respectfully exploring centuries-old cemeteries might seem a bit paradoxical. I am a historian, though, and the memorials people leave behind are a wonderful window into the past. As a writer, too, I also enjoy paying my respects to the great writers and artists from whom I am separated by decades or more: especially my favorite reclusive poet and “neighbor,” Emily Dickinson.

Because my blog is apparently hosting a kind of impromptu “I Love Dickinson!” week, here’s a virtual stroll through some quieter, more secret parts of Amherst, gravesites and otherwise: all with a vaguely literary bent!


Emily Dickinson was buried with her family in Amherst’s West Cemetery, a historic site with some graves that date back to the early 1700s. (What a truly different world the Pioneer Valley must have been then!) An elegant iron fence separates her grave from the rest of the cemetery, although that sadly hasn’t been enough to keep some people from attempting to deface it.


The back end of the cemetery is so peaceful and forested that you’d never suspect it was right next door to a gas station and student apartments!


Hidden near the cemetery is an amazing large-scale mural–one that I had never seen before, even after two and a half years in the area! It celebrates the history of Amherst and its many local historical figures.  I enjoyed admiring it for what felt like ages, recognizing familiar buildings and locations in their nineteenth-century forms!


Perhaps the best surprise of the day was discovering a charming “Free Library” outside of someone’s home on the walk back–packed with a good mix of books! I’m going to take a look through my own personal collection and see if there are any books I might want to trade.

What are some of the best secret spots where you live?

3 thoughts on “even more emily: poetic wanderings in Amherst, MA

  1. thesnailmail September 30, 2016 / 2:57 pm

    There’s a poet I know locally–she’s actually the Poet Laureate of her city–and she refers to herself as a “poetess.” And that, as far as I can recall (which to be truthful, isn’t very far) ever encountering that term–until now!

    I’m a fan of the concept of Little Free Libraries!

  2. aliscraps September 30, 2016 / 3:48 pm

    Here in my neck of the woods, is Hard Luck Canyon. It’s a literal canyon, with a small, gentle stream running through it (which turns to a raging and fast moving river when the weather changes) just outside of town. When you’re down inside it, you’d think you were in the rocky mountains, not the foothills!

    • Mailbox Mermaid October 7, 2016 / 9:11 am

      Ooo, that sounds lovely! I wish we had a few hidden canyons or two over here!

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