I still haven’t had time to get to the exhibit, so I thought you’d like to see Jim Fitzgerald’s article from AP (Jim lives in Pelham, btw); got the photos from AP, too, though they look like the ones I saw from NYBG:
“NY public garden features poet’s favorite flowers
Associated Press Writer
NEW YORK (AP) — They’re growing dandelions at the New York Botanical Garden. On purpose.
The Edenic estate in the Bronx has mounted an exhibition called “The Poetry of Flowers.” It focuses on the 19th-century poet Emily Dickinson, whose verse and letters described blossoms of all kinds and who was better known, when she lived, as a gardener than as a poet.
It’s a wide-ranging, indoor and outdoor springtime show, incorporating a breathtaking display of flowering plants in the Enid A. Haupt conservatory, a collection of 60 Dickinson-related artifacts in a gallery and dozens of outdoor stations that highlight her poems in the midst of the flowers she celebrated.
The Poetry Society of America, which turns 100 this year, is a co-presenter.
The flower garden installed in the giant glass conservatory is designed to resemble the grounds of Dickinson’s home in Amherst, Massachusetts, by including the flowers she favored, based on her poems and letters.
“We don’t know exactly what her garden looked like but we know lots and lots of the plants she had,” said Francisca Coelho, who is in charge of the conservatory. “And there were plenty of ideas in what she wrote.”
Describing a red tulip’s emergence from its underground bulb, Dickinson wrote:
“She slept beneath a tree —
Remembered but by me.
I touched her Cradle mute —
She recognized the foot —
Put on her Carmine suit
The display includes windowed facades meant to look like Dickinson’s own home and her brother’s next door, and there’s a representation of the poet’s bedroom with a window providing a view like the one she had.
That view includes the weedy dandelion, whose coarse leaves are now the bane of suburban homeowners and whose airy seed head is the delight of children.
Dickinson, who lived from 1830-1886, wrote that the dandelion “Astonishes the Grass” and has “a shouting Flower.”
So there in the conservatory, the dandelion has a place of honor among lupines and delphinium, lilies and tulips, ferns, hydrangeas and a fruiting grapevine.
It might be best to see the flowers after viewing the exhibit in the garden’s Mertz Library, which displays some of Dickinson’s writings as well as a digital version of the herbarium she assembled in her teens by collecting, pressing and labeling about 400 plant specimens.
There’s also a reproduction of a white dress the poet wore. Judith Farr, an adviser to the show and author of “The Gardens of Emily Dickinson,” said Dickinson gave up wearing any color but white when she was in her 30s, as she began to withdraw from society. She also took on some other odd behaviors, including gardening at night.
One of the poet’s inspirations was a book called “Symbolical Language of Flowers,” which ascribed meanings to particular flowers — a poppy symbolizes doom, a violet means humility, etc. Farr said Dickinson used flowers as symbols repeatedly. The book is on display and many of the flowers can be found in the conservatory.
The poetry stations outside display Dickinson poems and offer audio messages about the works and the flowers that inspired them. Visitors can use their cell phones to hear the poems and get mini-lectures on the poet and the plants.
The show runs through June 13. On selected dates, literary figures such as former poet laureate Billy Collins will discuss the influence of Dickinson.
On the final weekend, June 12-13, visitors can join a marathon reading of Dickinson poetry.
On the Net:
New York Botanical Garden, http://www.nybg.org