For the Love of Dickinson

I read this in the Boston Globe.  I love people who do these acts as they make life a little more special, a little more magical--

A young man’s love of Emily Dickinson’s poetry blossomed into a tradition almost as mysterious as the woman herself. Now the anonymous donor of roses to celebrate the poet’s birthday has unmasked himself.

For the past 13 years, James Fraser, a retired physicist living in Acton, has bought roses to commemorate the poet’s birth on Dec. 10, 1830. During the open house at the Emily Dickinson Museum in Amherst held on the Saturday closest to her birthday, roses have been handed out — one for every year since her birth. On Dec. 11 the first 180 visitors received a rose.

In a recent phone interview, Fraser said that he wasn’t a particularly serious student as a teenager, but he was drawn to Dickinson’s work. “There was something about her poems that was a little different,” he said. Then he turned to physics, earning a PhD.

Decades later he acquired Cynthia Griffin Wolff’s biography of Dickinson, but it sat on his shelf for years before he opened it. “By reading the book, I got a much better understanding of how she [Dickinson] put words and ideas together. My interest just sort of snowballed from there,” he said.

He visited the Dickinson house, joined the Emily Dickinson International Society, and initiated the annual gift. This month’s open house and gift of roses was the last of its kind. Times change and so should birthday celebrations, Fraser said. Next year’s observance is a mystery for now.



  1. Neato! I read that Wolff biography, too, learning a lot about Emily and her times--the day-to-day reality of death stands out, the seriousness of her choices about religion, etc. This guy is wonderful!

  2. How wonderful. I love these kinds of stories.

    Until this past year, someone always left a bottle of liquor and a flower on Poe's grave in Baltimore. His identity remains unknown.

    Kiki Smith did a wonderful book with Arion Press in 2007: "Sampler":


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