There is a story I want to tell. The story is about togetherness: that’s its short version. The longer version could go back to the pine table in my family’s kitchen where my brothers and I did homework while my parents cooked or washed dishes. It definitely encompasses the year I lived as a stranger in France and the multilingual education I’ve been fortunate to have. And it is directly related to my five years in England and the way that, in that place, I was part of an intense and sustaining community. It’s certainly a story that comes out of a magical—there’s no other word for it—five days in 2010 when some poets whose work I love came to Nottingham, spending four of those days teaching and talking and reading and walking and eating with forty writers from all over Europe and the UK. (Those days! Where together we built something! I got up to read and couldn’t read because I was in tears over the belief of all these people who’d come to be together and write.) And the story I want to tell comes out of MIEL, too—this press, which itself developed out of the desire to make spaces for writers like the one we’d made together in Nottingham that July. Being at the Vermont Studio Center this summer only made me more sure of the desire I have for spaces where writers and artists can be together, not only on the page but in the flesh.
For a very long time, nearly ten years, I carried the idea of making such a space in my pocket. But for most of that time I never believed it was realistic or possible. It was bigger than what I could do alone: it required things like money and land, neither of which I have. The story I want to tell is the story of that idea, which is now real, against what I believed were the odds. The story is Dickinson House.
I wanted to make a space where writers and artists could come to make work, to build community, to be taken care of without guilt, with openness and generosity. And about two years ago Jonathan’s mother offered us her house to rent and renovate and use for just that. And as of about two weeks ago we are officially licensed by the Flemish Tourist Board as a guesthouse, so I can say that Dickinson House truly is real. We’re doing a soft launch this fall, and will open for 2015 applications (and applications for fellowships!) in December.
None of this would be possible without a ton of hard work and help from Jonathan, without the kindness (and below-market-rate rent) his mother extended, without the support of our families, or without the belief, good cheer, and help of friends all over. I want to emphasize this. None of this came from thin air. It is the result of generosity and privilege. It is also the result of penny-pinching and elbow grease and borrowing against hope and filling spare time with more work, even (especially) when we just wanted to rest. The house is full of beautiful old things that were given to us by friends and family, or found in second-hand shops here. The beds have quilts made by hand by three talented friends. I want the house to be for you, writer, reader, maker. I want there to be—there is—space here for you. If you need it, ask for it. If there are obstacles, tell me about them. We will find a way to get you here. You are welcome.