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Meeting August 8-11, 2019
Asilomar, California

Wild nights - Wild nights!
Were I with thee
Wild nights should be
Our luxury!

Futile - the winds -
To a Heart in port -
Done with the Compass -
Done with the Chart!

Rowing in Eden -
Ah - the Sea!
Might I but moor - tonight -
In thee!

I. . . visited the sea


Our Dear Society,

I am thrilled to write you on behalf of our EDIS leadership to update you on information concerning our very exciting meeting this summer. Our Conference Committee, led by our VP Elizabeth Petrino, with Renee Bergland, George Boziwick, Li-shin Hsu, and Stephanie Farrar has assembled a program that Martha Nell Smith and I have dreamed about for many years. We and the entire EDIS Board are ecstatic that To the Sea: Dickinson, Environment, and the West is only a few months away.

Our International Conference will be held at Asilomar, an internationally-known California State Park state-of-the-art meeting center. On the sea, literally on the sands, about as far west as you can go in America, bounded by volcanoes, grape fields, and the underwater California Canyon (a marine preserve deeper than the Grand Canyon), Asilomar is a landscape of tumult and moment: the tides sweep in, seals bark, whales leap, seaweed forests sway, pirates hole up in exotic coves, grapes mellow, Monarch butterflies light from their 1800 mile flights, tectonic plates shift, mountain lions prowl. Yes, Asilomar is a wild and gorgeous place. What better venue could there be to spend three days devoted to reading and exchanging ideas about her exhilarating poetry, discovering wild Emily Dickinson, who frequently imagined and wrote about the sea.

Our purpose for meeting in Asilomar is multifold:

Eco Themes Taken to the Edge
Our meeting on the edge of the continent gives us the opportunity to consider aspects of Dickinson’s most imaginative work that are profoundly green, global, and blue-green (as earth from space).We will be centering our attentions on her relationship with the environment, the West, and specifically, the sea. This latter might seem counterintuitive, since she proclaimed, “I never saw the sea.” But she “knows” what a wave must be, and imagines the sea in many poems, including herself on the sands, awash with thrilling foamy waves. Dickinson conceives the poet as sailor, and poetry as a “frigate.” Pirates, harbors, boats, sands, sea birds, overseas travel, as well as images of the West, are intrinsic to her work. A conference theme on her relationship with our physical world, the sea, and the West affords scholars the chance to bring in aspects of Dickinson’s interest in explorers and exploration, currents, tides, connections between continents, boundaries and edges of knowing, geology, geography, storms, weather, wave and rhythm, water and cosmic imagery, environmental consciousness, butterflies, bees, wind, references to maritime history, and other ways of understanding Dickinson “on the edge” of a continent and a country on the threshold of new ways of considering each other and our earth. Being in a place that vividly recreates Dickinson’s landscape of imagination will stimulate new insights into Dickinson’s wildness.

Where Your Inner Wild Meets a Wild West
Meeting on the West Coast affords members who are not on the East Coast a more practical opportunity to attend and enjoy a days-long assembly focused on Dickinson. Attendees will be in one of the most famous destinations in the world, a place of geographical, cultural, agricultural, multicultural, historical significance and grandeur. Featuring an astonishing assembly of Victorian houses, a world-famous aquarium, Cannery Row, mountains, forests, surf, and more, Asilomar is a culturally iconic place where writers and artists came to live and work.

An Architecture of Women’s Genius
Asilomar’s conference buildings and site were designed by Julia Morgan, one of the world’s first female engineer/architects who put her fame and skill to focus on building for women. The conference center was originally designed for women’s leadership development, at a time when Dickinson’s poetry was just beginning to be read widely. Concomitantly, women’s suffrage and civil and human rights movements were becoming more and more prominent. Thus, a conference in this setting gives us a chance to celebrate Dickinson’s status in the women’s movements of the 20th and 21st centuries and in the context of other women cultural leaders.

A Lively EDIS Chapter and Other Monarchs and Victorian Parades
Asilomar is in Pacific Grove, California (Butterfly Capital of the World, and Home of the Monarch Migration), where there is an active EDIS Chapter, begun during the tenure of our President Barbara Mossberg as City Poet in Residence (now Poet Laureate/ City Poet Emerita), and there is a lively community interest in Emily Dickinson. There will be interaction with the evolved community (a white-dress parade, people taking their dogs and visiting the sea). The scholarly conference program, as well as arts and performances, reflect what EDIS has been developing in exciting ways over the past decade.

Community and Costs
But there is another aspect to our meeting, and that is the concept of Asilomar as a conference center. This summer’s conference is a unique opportunity to have us spend more time with each other, engage in a common experience that accrues from one session to the next. We live and eat and attend meetings and gather under the same roofs (including the canopy of oaks and the sky).

Related to this feature of the conference center, economically, you may find our meeting somewhat costing less than our international meetings. Instead of paying separately for lodging, paying additional fees for a banquet, going out for dinners, etc., the price of a room—single occupancy $293.28. double occupancy $198.28 per person per nite, or a triple, or quad—also includes our banquet (and a bonfire) barbeque on the sands, and all meals together in a historic lodge, and snacks, and access not only to a sea (a boardwalk through the Center takes you right to the beach), but to campfire circles, swimming pools, pianos. There is IT support and superb handicapped support, including golf carts taking people to our buildings. One of our dinners is a beach barbecue and as President I am honored to host a campfire program around one of the fire pits. Program and lodging costs are in line with or less than typical international meetings. Flights to San Francisco, San Jose, or Monterey get you there, many nonstop. Shuttles from SFO and SJC leave every hour and cost less than $100. This is a prime tourist destination, and there are many car rental companies for those who want to explore Highway One, Mavericks, vineyards, redwood forests, desert, wilderness, and whale watching. The other feature of this conference is that, as is the custom with many international conferences in a variety of disciplines, costs are to be paid when making the reservation. The bonus is that all meals are paid for in advance. If any EDIS member feels this is a prohibitive burden—let us know. EDIS can help.

Yes, Emily Dickinson may have said she never saw the sea, but her poetry makes clear that she knows it. For Dickinson, the sea is a world she has experienced with all her senses as a poet. In Dickinson, this wild world of ours is recognized. We’re going to the depths of her heart, the peaks of her mind, the canyons of her soul, for wild nights and days with each other, gathered around the fire, to sing, gaze at the stars, hear the ocean’s roar, and share what we know and care about, honoring the role of Emily Dickinson in our own lives, where our own inner wild can share companionship and communion.

I look forward to working with you, and hearing from you, and seeing you anon, around the campfire, and celebrating the phenomenon of Emily Dickinson, as we continue to honor her life:

Me! Come! My dazzled face
In such a shining place!

Me! Hear! My foreign ear
The sounds of welcome near!

The saints shall meet
Our bashful feet.

My holiday shall be
That they remember me;

My paradise, the fame
That they pronounce my name.

Yes, that’s us! We are going to pronounce her name, in a grand holiday of spirit, and she shall hear in our EDIS ethos the sounds of welcome, in a shining place.

Yours sincerely,
Barbara Mossberg
President, EDIS, and for the Monarchs of our Board and Friends