Skip to content

Dear Kay,

Haunting is the word here.

I watched A Quiet Passion last week, the recent film by Terence Davies that gives us a guess at what Emily Dickinson might have been like, in the flesh. Davies does a beautiful, slow burn on revealing his ideas about what motivated this legendary writer, and it’s anything but a caricature of the poet recluse, dressed in white, living with her parents and sister in Amherst, Massachusetts, scribbling deathless poems on the back of envelopes and scraps of paper.

All those things appear in the film, of course. But Davies spins a story of a woman with deep moral fire, a preoccupation with mortality, and nuanced relationships with the small circle of family and friends around her. It is extremely beautiful to watch.

Fast and Furious this ain’t. And I thought at first that it was a costume drama too slow even for me. But it has stayed with me, and has got me thinking about all sorts of things.

For one thing, I’m haunted because watching this film made me realize how little I know about Dickinson’s poems despite the fact that I think of her as one of my favorite poets. So dilettanteish! I haven’t read her poems in years, but after watching Cynthia Nixon’s brittle and fiery performance, I immediately scampered over to the Academy of American Poets to dig in to their archive of Emily Dickinson. The poems are so much stranger than I remember them, wonderfully stark. I read someone suggesting that Emily Dickinson would have loved Twitter. Thank God she wasn’t around to see that!

Another haunting: I want to find more Terence Davies movies to watch. His sensibility is a marvel to see at work with this quiet material.

And finally, I want to watch The Belle of Amherst with Julie Harris. I don’t know a thing about it, but I always liked Julie Harris and I figure it will make good material for my PhD dissertation to come . . .

A Quiet Passion is available on Amazon (free to Amazon Prime members).

Wishing everyone a peaceful if not reclusive Sunday.




  • I was so excited when this movie came out at my favorite local theatre, hired a sitter, got my husband to come with me, and then spent most of the movie wishing she would die already so I could get out of the theatre. To be fair, my husband enjoyed the movie. Given that my favorite movie this year was a documentary about Turkish Street cats (in Turkish, with subtitles), I may just have strange taste in movies – romcons, yes, street cats, yes, slowwwwww dramas, no! The cat movie was Kedi, by the way, if you wanted to see it. They held it over at our local theatre because, as the owner put it, “who would have guessed there was this much untapped demand for Turkish Street cat movies?”

    • THE TURKISH CAT MOVIE! YES! It came and went at the Belcourt before I could see it. THANK YOU for the reminder–I was even going to make Hubbo go with me.

  • Did you recommend the movie “Maudie” in the past? I don’t remember why I put it in my Netflix queue, but it arrived yesterday. Best movie I have watched in ages!! Absolutely wonderful. A charming, but sadly damaged artist, a bleak life in Nova Scotia, cinematography that evokes seasons and the passing of life. Loved it!

    • I loved Maudie! Yet another haunting portrayal of an unexpectedly extraordinary artist.

    • This sounds magnificent! All my favorite components . . .

    • It was Kristin Nicholas. Can’t wait to watch it, as well.

  • Thank you so much for this, Ann! I enjoyed it thoroughly.

  • I attended grad school in Amherst and passed by Emily’s house daily on my way to classes. One winter, a group of friends went sledding at Amherst College, across the street from her house. An older woman and her daughter stopped by to watch and she told us she was an actress and would be playing the lead in The Belle of Amherst put on by a theater group in her city. She watched us sledding and said it had been years since she’d done that so one of the guys took her down the hill on his sled. She loved it. It’s a fond memory to remember sledding with Emily!

    • Love this. Also love the idea that you passed by Emily Dickinson’s house every day. We all have unusual sights that we see so often that we forget how extraordinary they are. I drive by Dolly Parton’s offices all the time, and I forget THAT’S DOLLY PARTON IN THERE MY HERO WITH THE GIGANTIC HEART.

      • Wow! Dolly is one of the best!

  • Have you seen/read The Gorgeous Nothings? Would love to know what you thought…

    • the Gorgeous Nothings: so wonderful!
      a couple years ago I read Hummingbird Summer- a book about the whole circle of people in Amherst, including Our Emily. Well worth reading.

  • Thanks for the recommend. I saw the Edith Wharton movie a few years ago. Now I am going to look for hills Liverpool documentary, as we are going there in two weeks! He seems to be a sad lonely fellow, very much like his characters according to a quote in his IMDB page.

  • “The Deep Blue Sea”, Terence Davies’ s previous movie, is a gem. Rachel Weisz, Tom Hiddleston, war-time London… Just beautiful.

  • THe Belle of Amherst rings far more true to the subleties and shy delicacy of Emily than the movie. The movie portrayed her as harsh, hard and bitter-which she was NOT. To quote another moviegoer after seeing A Quiet Passion, “I need a stiff drink after that movie”.

  • Thank you for the recommendation. I really enjoyed knitting to that movie yesterday. Keep them coming!

  • I watched a wonderful film the other day: A Man Called Ove ( Totally unrelated to Emily Dickinson but it made my soul sing. I’d devoured the book, and luckily the film is available on Prime.

    A note: it is in Swedish with subtitles so plan your knitting accordingly.

Come Shop With Us

My Cart0
There are no products in the cart!
Continue shopping