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How Emily Dickinson Makes Black Cake
Jennifer Dotson


When Emily wasn’t writing poems
she was baking in mammoth quantities.
Her recipe called for something like twenty – no, thirty eggs
all separated and beaten; sacks of sugar, cakes of butter.
When Emily wasn’t writing poems she was
entertaining crowds of friends and neighbors
with her mammoth quantities of baked goods.
Perhaps it was her defense against criticism.
Keep those verse tucked away on scribbled
scraps of paper in books next to recipes and
grocery lists. Instead, sweeten the world around
her with mammoth quantities of delicious
baked goods and witty conversation
about the weather and all those friends and
neighbors indulging in Emily’s cakes.

© by Jennifer Dotson.
Used here with the author’s permission.


Jennifer Dotson is the founder and creative engine behind She is the author of two poetry collections, Late Night Talk Show Fantasy & Other Poems (Kelsay Books, 2020) and Clever Gretel (Chicago Poetry, 2013). Jennifer loves action movies and imagines crafting a screenplay with lots of car chases and explosions in which a poet saves the world.


Post New Comment:
Love the poem --- historical accuracy, I don't know. I am troubled by the "entertaining" part. She was a recluse; she baked; she was a gardener; a poet, and she hid behind closed doors when guests came. Mabel Loomis Todd received a note and flower from her when she visited the homestead (Emily was just upstairs in her room). Instead of coming downstairs to hear Todd play the piano, Emily sent a note and a flower to show her appreciation. Samuel Bowles, editor of Springfield Republican, couldn't get her to come down when he visited. "Get down here you rascal!" he yelled up to her. I guess you can say she entertained crowds with her baked goods, but she wasn't there to witness it. ;)
Posted 12/12/2023 02:41 PM
Lori Levy:
Interesting angle!
Posted 12/10/2023 08:13 PM
Sharon Waller Knutson:
Any poem title with Emily Dickinson in it gets my attention. At first, I thought the poem was fiction until I googled the recipe and saw it in Emily's own handwriting. Emily's Black Cake is a Caribbean Christmas fruit cake with molasses or burnt sugar. I love how the poet brings out that although the world knows Dickinson as a reclusive poet she was known in her community for her sweets and entertaining.
Posted 12/10/2023 02:53 PM
Hi Jennifer, I had to read this one twice, I always read your more than once. It was so good the second time I think I'll read it again.
Posted 12/10/2023 01:33 PM
Wonderful poem! I heard of Emily's black cake...I'll have to google the recipe. Caroline Johnson
Posted 12/10/2023 01:05 PM
Arlene Gay Levine:
Jennifer, I love everything about Emily Dickinson and feel the same way about your delicious poem.
Posted 12/10/2023 12:43 PM
Nicely done, Jennifer . . . never thought of that angle on Dickinson's reclusiveness. Learned something today.
Posted 12/10/2023 09:23 AM
This poem gave me mammoth quantities of delight!
Posted 12/10/2023 08:17 AM
Larry Schug:
Amazing--a poet's imagination!
Posted 12/10/2023 07:49 AM
Poetry and caketwo of my favorite subjects!
Posted 12/10/2023 07:45 AM

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