Tag Archives: as i could not stop for death he kindly stopped for me

The Bell of Amherst – how best to enjoy the poetry of Emily Dickinson

I have long been an admirer of Emily Dickinson’s work, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Emily_Dickinson. My first recollection of having encountered her poetry was as a child whilst listening to Poetry Please! on BBC Radio 4. I remember being fascinated by a rendering of Dickinson’s fine poem “As I could not stop for death he kindly stopped for me”, https://www.poetryfoundation.org/poems/47652/because-i-could-not-stop-for-death-479.

I frequently return to Emily’s work, and the bookcase in my bedroom contains 2 substancial braille volumes of her poetry. Given the pleasure I derive from her poetry, I was pleased to find that Amazon offers a free Alexa skill enabling owners of the Amazon Echo to listen to the poetry of Emily Dickinson, https://www.amazon.co.uk/Michael-Norton-The-Belle-Amherst/dp/B06XNM6GR9, and being an Echo owner I enabled The Bell of Amherst yesterday evening.

On opening The Bell of Amherst, the Echo user is asked whether they would like “The Bell” to read a poem. On answering “yes, a poem is voiced by Alexa and the app closes. If you wish to hear another poem its necessary to open The Bell again and request that Alexa read another Dickinson poem.

Whilst The Bell of Amherst provides those with access to an Amazon Echo with the opportunity to listen to the poetry of Emily Dickinson, I find the robotic voice of Alexa distracting and would prefer that the poems are read by actors of the human kind, as is the case with the My Poems Alexa skill, which I reviewed on 31 October, https://kmorrispoet.com/2019/10/31/my-review-of-my-poems-an-alexa-skill-enabling-the-amazon-echo-user-to-listen-to-poetry/.

The fact that one has to re-open The Bell each time one wishes to hear a poem is also irritating. Again I would prefer that the Bell followed the same practice as My Poems whereby the user is given the opportunity to hear another poem, rather than the app shutting down on him/her once a single poem has been read.

In brief, I wouldn’t recommend The Bell of Amherst as a means of enjoying the verse of Emily Dickinson. I would suggest obtaining one of the many printed collections of her poetry as an alternative to The Bell of Amherst.

As an aside, I was delighted when, in response to a recent review of my Selected Poems, a reader of that review commented as follows:
“His poem about the grim reaper reminds me of Emily Dickinson’s “because I could not stop for death He kindly stopped for me.” Thanks for letting his read some of his poems.”
The poem to which the commenter refers is my poem entitled “Time”. You can find the review of The Selected Poems of K Morris (together with the above quoted comment) here, https://robbiesinspiration.wordpress.com/2019/10/20/bookreview-poetry-the-selected-poems-of-k-morris/.

Kevin