As people, they couldn’t have been more different.
One was a man, writing 50 years ago from a city jail on the subject of justice and civil disobedience.
The other was a woman, writing soaring poems in the 19th century in an intensely personal way.
As writers, their work will converge in Buffalo, as two days of public readings of the poetry of Emily Dickinson and the jailhouse letter of Martin Luther King Jr. bring public attention to their lives and literary output.
The marathon daylong reading of Dickinson’s poems happens 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. today, in Westminster Presbyterian Church, 724 Delaware Ave. The free event is presented by Just Buffalo Literary Center, the UB department of English and community members.
Dickinson wrote 1,789 poems, according to University at Buffalo faculty members who helped organize the event, and plans call for all of them to be read at the session. That will take about 14 hours, they projected.
To help matters along, there will be servings – until it’s all eaten – of something called “Black Cake,” a dense molasses cake that Dickinson used to bake.
The poems will be read in the order they appear in a volume of Dickinson’s poetry edited by Ralph W. Franklin. The event is timed to draw attention to National Poetry Month.
Some “celebrity readers” will make appearances during the daylong session, including Mayor Byron W. Brown, UB President Satish Tripathi and more.
The Martin Luther King event will take place Tuesday when four local sites hold readings of the letter that King wrote from the Birmingham Jail.
The readings are timed to the 50th anniversary of the day that King began writing the letter. Similar readings of the King document are happening elsewhere in the country Tuesday to commemorate the day.
The King-themed event will also be free and will take place in four places: Canisius College’s Library, 2001 Main St., at 2 p.m.; at 5 p.m. in PUSH Buffalo’s Neighborhood Center, 271 Grant St.; 5:30 p.m. in the Frank E. Merriweather Jr. Library, 1324 Jefferson Ave.; and at 6 p.m. in Talking Leaves bookstore, 3158 Main St.