OGDEN — Poet Emily Dickinson cut the first serving of a birthday cake marking the 182nd anniversary of her birth.
The writer — or at least her Weber State University stand-in, WSU English instructor Jan Hamer — then listened to poetry written and performed by students.
Dickinson/Hamer, wearing a Victorian-style dress borrowed from WSU’s costume shop, applauded freely and posed inquiries about modern content, such as the nature of diet Mountain Dew and what would make it as nasty as the student poet had described in her verse.
The works of Dickinson are the subject of 2013’s Weber Reads, a community reading project co-sponsored by WSU, the Weber County Library, the Weber County Commission and the Standard-Examiner.
Previous Weber Reads subjects have included the nation’s founders, Frederick Douglass, Harriett Jacobs, “Huckleberry Finn” and “Frankenstein.”
“We have never done a poet, and she is one of the best,” Kathryn L. MacKay, an associate professor in Weber State’s history department and a spokeswoman for Weber Reads, said of Dickinson (1830-86).
“In her time, she was more famous for her garden than her writing. Her work became more widely known after her death, and she emerged as an important voice, an American voice and a female voice of her time. In many ways, she is timeless.”
Dickinson is known for writing about nature, life, death and immortality, human relations and love, MacKay said. Even the Amherst, Mass., poet’s most depressing poems usually contained an element of hope.
Hamer, as Dickinson, read a few famous poems, and one she said was more recently discovered.
Two Weber State students then read from their own works. Lauren Paskett, 24, of Centerville, read first, followed by Erica Farnes, 19, of Bountiful.
“I haven’t read it all, but I have enjoyed her work that I read,” Farnes said of Dickinson. “She is known as one of the best female poets.”
Hamer, who also serves as adviser for the WSU student journal Metaphor, said she is pleased that the Weber Reads chose Dickinson.
“Very few read her work in her lifetime,” she said. “She didn’t make an effort to put her work out there. Now she is one of our most-read poets.”
Weber Reads events continue through the spring. For a list of reading and teaching resources and a calendar of public events, visit http://community.weber.edu/weberreads, then click on “Emily Dickinson.”