CFEONLINE News from the Diocese of Central Florida
‘Summoning the Divine’ Through the Poetry of Whitman, DickinsonMay 19, 2017 • Jeff Gardenour  • DIOCESAN FAMILY • REACHING OUT

Emily Dickinson

Poetry lovers this year can get an inside perspective of two of America’s greatest poets, Walt Whitman and Emily Dickinson, thanks to St. Richard’s Episcopal Church in Winter Park.

For the first time ever, St. Richard’s is offering “Summer with Summoning the Divine” Literature through the Lens of Faith in May, June, July, and August in classroom 1, two doors down from the main church office. The monthly sessions, which are free and open to members from St. Richard’s and other churches, give participants the chance to read and discuss pre-prepared 14- to 20-page reading packets containing poetry of Whitman or Dickinson.

The packets are prepared by Pam Menke and offered for review two weeks in advance of each reading session. Packets are free, distributed electronically during a prior session and available in the church office.

“We usually draw a fairly large group, but this is almost summer, and some might be traveling,” Menke said. “Evening (sessions) are usually a little larger, with maybe 18 to 20 people, and the mornings a tad smaller at 13 to 15 people.”

Walt Whitman

The first two sessions in May will read and discuss the poetry of Whitman (1819-1892), who is considered the father of free verse and had respect for all religions. The first two sessions were scheduled from 6:30 p.m. to 8 p.m., May 15; and from 9:30 a.m. to 11 a.m., May 16. The next sessions will be held rom 6:30 p.m. to 8 p.m., June 19; and from 9:30 a.m. to 11 a.m., June 20.

Sessions for Dickinson (1830-1886), a quiet and reclusive writer who wrote nearly 1,800 poems but had less than a dozen published, will be held from 6:30 p.m. to 8 p.m., July 17; from 9:30 a.m. to 11 a.m., July 18; from 6:30 p.m. to 8 p.m., Aug. 21; and from 9:30 a.m. to 11 a.m., Aug. 22.

Menke said preparing the readings is very time-consuming, but worthwhile. Each reading begins with a two- to three-page set of quotations that are distributed at the beginning of each session. Menke uses the quotations as a guide for discussion, assuring that all attendees can participate regardless if they have read the packet beforehand or not.

“It is fascinating and moving for me,” Menke said. “We always end by saying a prayer in unison, which I write based on the theme/insights I’ve reached through meditation and work on the author.”

Readings for September through December will be announced in August.

Email Menke at or call 407-671-4211 for more information.

About the Diocese
Diocesan Staff