The Big Read Sonoma County
Published: Thursday, February 28, 2013 at 1:23 p.m.
Last Modified: Thursday, February 28, 2013 at 1:23 p.m.
When the organizers of The Big Read Sonoma County’s annual March celebration of literature chose the poet Emily Dickinson as their focus, they realized some folks might balk.
“When you pick poetry to read, there’s a always a general sense of dread — the fear that you might interpret it wrong, or not be smart enough to get it,” said David Dodd, Sonoma County Library collections manager. “I know I feel that way sometimes.”
But the life’s work of the famously reclusive 19th-century poet from Amherst, Mass., is easily accessible, he said, and the poems will charm those who give them a chance.
“Her poems are so short. A lot of them appeal to children,” Dodd said. “For instance, there’s the famous poem, ‘I’m Nobody, Who Are You?’ And you can sing any of her poems to the tune of ‘The Yellow Rose of Texas.’ On the surface, they’re simple, but you can get a Ph.D. in Emily Dickinson.”
The month-long program has two goals: Raising public awareness of the importance of reading, and bringing the community together to share the sheer fun of enjoying well-written words.
“One of the fun things we’re doing is ‘Poem in Your Pocket.’ We’re printing up these little cards with Emily Dickinson poems on them, and giving them to our ‘Poem Pocket Patrol,’ who will walk up to people and hand them a poem,” he said. “You might get ‘Hope Is the Thing With Feathers’ handed to you.”
The Big Read originally began in 2002 as a local program called Sonoma County Reads. In 2007, Sonoma County poet Dana Gioia, then executive director of the National Endowment for the Arts, took the program nationwide as The Big Read. This year, 78 communities across the United States are participating.
This year’s Sonoma County effort is funded by a $16,000 NEA grant awarded to KRCB, the public radio and TV station based in Rohnert Park, said Cheryl Scholar, the station’s community engagement director.
The grant covers books and materials for more than a dozen teachers in Sonoma County, as well as a variety of other programs.
Actress Barbara Dana kicks off the month-long tribute at 8 p.m. Saturday, March 2, portraying Emily Dickinson in “The Belle of Amherst” at Santa Rosa’s 6th Street Playhouse. Admission: $5-10.
Dana, also the author of “A Voice of Her Own: Becoming Emily Dickinson,” will appear Monday, March 4, at Copperfield’s Books in Santa Rosa’s Montgomery Village and Tuesday, March 5, at Copperfield’s in Petaluma. Both events start at 7 p.m.
The Monte Rio Theater in Monte Rio will screen the Public Broadcasting System television version of “The Belle of Amherst,” starring Julie Harris, at 6:30 p.m. Thursday, March 7, and 2 p.m. Saturday, March 23.
Events continue at various venues throughout the month, including poetry readings, lectures, group discussions, radio broadcasts and an art show.
KRCB shot short, promotional videos of teacher Bonnie Raines’ fourth-graders singing a Dickinson poem at the Santa Rosa Charter School for the Arts, to air occasionally during the month on the station.
“It was so fun!” Scholar said after the taping.
And while poetry purists may fuss over whether a great poet is being taken seriously enough, having a good time is the whole point of Big Read Sonoma County.
“The goal of the program is to build a sense of community by getting as many people as possible to read a common piece of literature,” said Dodd of the Sonoma County Library. “We want to make it clear that reading is fun.”
For more information: www.neabigread.org/communities/?community_id=1276
You can reach Staff Writer Dan Taylor at 521-5243 or email@example.com. See his ARTS blog at arts.blogs.pressdemocrat.com.
All rights reserved. This copyrighted material may not be re-published without permission. Links are encouraged.
You'll find a number of new technology features available from this site. With personalized news sent straight to your mobile device.
post your stuff
Petaluma360.com is here for you to post your comments, photos, news and events with the community. Post it now!
Have something to say? Join the conversation!
Upload your photos of community events, holidays, pets, cute kids, breaking news and more, and vote for your favorites!
Submit your area events to encourage others in your community to attend.