Westfield native pens poetry work

Westfield native Everett Decker stands outside his Hampden Street home with his new book “haiku Emily!,” a collection of poems inspired by haiku and the works of Emily Dickinson. Decker will sign copies of his book today from 4-8 p.m. at Pilgrim Candle. (Photo by Hope E. Tremblay)

WESTFIED – Westfield native Everett Decker developed a love of poetry before his 13th birthday, especially for the work of Emily Dickinson.
“My love for Emily Dickinson began when I was quite young,” said Decker. “I always had a fondness for her and felt a sisterhood of sorts. She lived close by and I felt a kinship.”
Decker has published a book inspired by both Dickinson and the traditional Japanese poetry style of haiku. The book, titled ‘haiku Emily!” is  a book of poems Decker hopes will bring Dickinson’s work to a level everyone can appreciate.
Decker said when talking to people about Dickinson, it became clear that most people found her work a challenge to understand. Some of the language she used, which was well understood in her time in the 1800s, was lost in translation today. While studying Japanese philosophy, Decker grew to love haiku and realized there were many similarities between the Japanese poetry and Dickinson’s work. Both are simple, evoke emotion and, said Decker, follow a hidden structure.
“I tried to combine haiku and Emily Dickinson’s work and show Emily in a different way,” said Decker.
The resulting book features poems inspired by 125 of Dickinson’s poems. Decker has written a haiku Emily poem for every one of Dickinson’s known 1,789 poems.
“I will probably publish the next volume with 500 poems next year,” said Decker.
He plans to publish every one of the 1,789 haiku Emily poems he has written with the hope of making Dickinson more accessible to today’s readers.
“From the first haiku Emily poem I penned, I knew it had a voice,” said Decker. “When I began sharing them with people, they became enthused about her work, which was my intent.”
In addition to the volumes of his poetry, Decker is working on three editions for classroom use.
“I want to have three levels, one for grades four-eight, one for grades nine-12 and one for college,” said Decker.
His plan is for teachers to enhance their poetry lessons with his book. He said his hope is that students will read his haiku Emily, the original Dickinson work it was based upon, and then write their own response poem.
Decker said he wants to bring Dickinson back to life with his haiku poems about her poetry. He said Dickinson felt once something was on paper, it was done, and therefore dead.
“I believe that is why she never tried to publish her poems while she was alive,” said Decker. “She felt they were never done. I want to help keep her poetry alive today.”
Decker made it easy for readers to reference the original Dickinson works that inspired each haiku Emily. At the end of every haiku Emily poem is the Johnson and Franklin numbers assigned to every Dickinson poem, as well as the first line of the original work, so readers can look it up online if they do not have the Johnson or Franklin Dickinson catalog reference.
Decker said he hopes readers will embrace Dickinson.
“She had such genius,” he said.
Decker dedicated his first book to Janet Larese, his seventh grade English and home room teacher at Westfield Junior High School.
“She encouraged me through a magazine she had our class make called the Voice of 227, which was our room,” said Decker. “It was a vehicle for our artistic and creative outlet.”
Decker said Larese wrote him a special message in his yearbook that has encouraged him throughout his life.
“She wrote for me to ‘keep up with your plays and stories and someday I’ll be teaching it in my classroom’.” said Decker. “I held onto that encouragement.”
Decker said his grandmother was a teacher in Granville and had an appreciation for poetry, but it was not a passion for anyone else in his family.
“My older sister is very creative, but not in writing, and my son is artistic and musically inclined,” said Decker.
Decker makes a living in a non-creative field and said it helps him “pay the bills so I can be creative after work.”
Decker is a third-generation native of Westfield and lives in his family’s ancestral home on Hampden Street. Decker will be signing copies of “haiku Emily!” today from 4-8 p.m. at Pilgrim Candle on Union Street. Copies will be available for purchase at the signing and also at amazon.com, Barnes and Noble, the Emily Dickinson Museum and Food for Thought in Amherst, and Broadside Books and Booklink in Northampton.

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