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Complete Details online: http://deadpoes.org/DiaDead.html
National Poets Celebrate A New Holiday For Dead Poets
Septemer 30, 2010 -- What do you get when you mix Edgar Allan Poe, All Saints Day, the graves of 600 American poets and the Mexican celebration of El Dia De Los Muertos?
Why, the 1st National Dead Poets Remembrance Day, of course.
This October twenty current and former State Poets Laureate have joined with the Dead Poets Society of America to initiate a new national literary holiday that they hope will become an annual tradition.
“Dead Poets Remembrance Day is a unique way to enrich our cultural commons by annually “digging up” the treasures of our poetic past and resurrecting them in the public imagination,” says Walter Skold, the Maine-based poet and founder of the Society.
“Thousands of tourists visit the graves of Poe, Longfellow, Dickinson and other literary luminaries each year,” says Skold, “But what of the hundreds of American poets whose graves few people ever visit, and whose poetry has been forgotten?”
On October 7th Maine poets will initiate the new holiday in a sunrise to sunset trip up the coast of Maine, where community members will read from the works of 36 Maine poets in six scenic locations.
Celebrations will take place in nine other states that weekend, with the grand finale being the 12-hr, 30-grave Great Boston Poetry Marathon, where 48 dead bards from Massachusetts will be remembered in 7 locations.
"There's all kinds of commemorative dates, for things like National Potato Week or something like that," says Wisconsin's poet laureate, Marilyn L. Taylor. "So it’s high time that poets got some national recognition."
October 7th was chosen as the date because it is the anniversary of Poe’s death as well as the anniversary of the birth of the “Hoosier Poet” James Whitcomb Riley.
“Riley’s grave overlooking Indianapolis is the biggest poet’s grave in the US,” points out Joybe Brinkmam, the former Poet Laureate of Indiana, “And more people lined the streets for his funeral in 1916 than attended the memorial service for Michael Jackson.”
It was during a 3-month 2009 journey, when Skold travelled 15,000 miles to document the graves of more than 200 poets, that the idea for the holiday developed.
One source of inspiration for the new literary holiday came from a 2009 visit Skold paid to Coleman Barks, a well-known poet and translator of Rumi, from Athens, Georgia.
"The areas around the tombs of Hafez and Saadi in Shiraz, Iran, are great continuous celebrations,” says Barks, who has visited the tombs on several occasions. “The same with Rumi's resting place in Konya, Turkey.
“We have a lot to learn from those ancient cultures about how to enjoy our poets, and poetry in general," he says.
In the United States there are currently annual celebrations at the graves of Edgar Allan Poe, Theodore Roethke, Nicolas Virgilio, Anne Sexton and a dozen others the Dead Poets Society of America has documented.
“We’re out to instigate celebrations like this at the graves of more American poets,” says Skold, who has visited over 200 poets’ graves east of the Mississippi.
The admonition from Barks, an elder American poet, seems to have struck a poetic lyre in the hearts of the 20 current and former state laureates who now endorse the holiday.
“It is fitting that contemporary poets honor the iconic poets who who carved a path for American poetry, in the sacred places where they now lie,” says Marjory Wentworth, a native of Massachusetts who is currently the Poet Laureate of South Carolina.
“Sarah Orne Jewett is an ancestor of mine, and I am thrilled to have the opportunity to read her poetry in Gloucester,” said Wentworth, who will participate in a sunrise reading at the famous Fishermans Memorial in Gloucester, MA.
Wentworth and Starr were among the projects earliest supporters, but the Boston and Maine events are only two of ten that have been planned for the new holiday by laureates in California, Wisconsin, Indiana, Alabama, and five other states.
"It is in remembering that we honor our deceased poets, preserve the past, and understand who we are as writers today," says Sue Walker, Poet Laureate of Alabama and Stokes Distinguished Professor of Creative Writing at the University of South Alabama, in Mobile.
In May of this year Skold joined Walker and other poets at the grave of famous Civil War-era poet, Rev. Abram Ryan, during a journey called “The Dead Poets Grand Tour.” For the new holiday Walker is going to lead a local celebration at the grave of well-known Alabama poet, Eugene Walker.
In Hew Hampshire, a dozen well-known poets will gather on October 10th at the Robert Frost Farm, a National Landmark in Derry which is often considered sacred poetic ground.
“The Derry farm is the place where the voice of Robert Frost as poet was truly heard for the first time,” said Bill Gleed, a poet and the manager of the Frost Farm. “In a sense, all of us who write poetry, whether we know it or not, carry the very stones of this farm within us.”
Of the 20 National Poetry Landmarks that Skold has visited in his journeys, he says the Frost Farm is his favorite.
“In the very farm that inspired Frost to write so many of his beloved poems we’ll honor the memory of poets like Jane Kenyon, Robert Lowell, Celia Thaxter, and E.E. Cummings,” he says.
And what of the over 400 graves of American poets, the location of which remain unknown or buried in musty historical archives?
“This year we are kicking-off this new holiday with both a bang and a whimper, with both large and small events,” says Skold. “In future years we hope people in all states will join the hunt to dig up the graves of our dead poets.”
A fitting remark for a group whose slogan is “We dig dead poets.”
In order to help people find these graves the Dead Poets Society of America’s website has compiled maps which list the names of over 600 dead American poets, from the earliest settlements to the year 2010.
Skold says that readings on Dead Poets Remembrance Day are envisioned as “bottom-up” community events, and that poetry-lovers in any state can organize their own event.
That is just what Kansas Poet Laureate, Caryn Mirriam-Goldberg, is doing.
“How can we create this new tradition?” asks Mirriam-Goldgerg on her blog. “Well, organize readings, or just stand on a chair in the middle of your living room and read some of the great works of Walt Whitman, Emily Dickinson, or your great aunt Leonora who wrote poetry in secret.”
And with Mirriam-Goldberg as one of the holiday’s endorsers, Skold may have found another good slogan.
“Long live the dead poets!” says the Kansas laureate. “Long may we sing of those known and unknown who changed our lives with their words.”
Complete details at: http://deadpoes.org/DiaDead.html
National Events Schedule
Dead Poets Remembrance Day 2010
Starting October 6th and going to Columbus Day, Oct. 11th, ten state poets laureate are going to lead community poetry readings at the graves of famous poets to celebrate the 1st national Dead Poets Remembrance Day. In Maine and Boston the events will be all-day celebrations, with several locations for people interested in attending to choose from. The new literary holiday is a project of the Dead Poets Society of America, in cooperation with 20 current and former state poets laureate.
Check the Dead Poets Remembrance Day page for links to details of these readings, as well as other possible readings that may take place in Utah, Kentucky, and other states.
In Maine more than a dozen poets will gather on Thursday, October 7th, in 6 locations, from sunrise to sunset, to read from 36 of Maine’s past poets. Several of the readings will take place in the most beautiful places along the coast, such as Giant Steps, on Bailey’s Island (6:15), Mt. Battie, in Camden (11:30), and the summit of Mt. Cadillac, on Mt. Desert Island (5:30).
On Columbus Day, the Great Boston Poetry Marathon will include stops in 6 main locations, including Gloucester (sunrise), Boston Commons (11:30), the famous Mt. Auburn Cemetery (2:00 to 4:30), and Author’s Ridge, in Concord (5:30). Join with state poets laureate, Marjory Wentworth (S.C) and Lisa Starr (R.I.), Rhina Espaillat and other local poets as they read from the works of 48 past Massachusetts poets. Both Edgar Allan Poe and Henry Thoreau will join the marathon in person to talk about their deceased poet friends.
In Derry, New Hampshire, the Frost Farm, a National Landmark, will host the event “Remembering the Poets of the Granite State” at 3 pm. Ten of the state’s best poets will gather to read and honor poets like Robert Frost, Richard Eberhart, Jane Kenyon, E.E. Cummings, Celia Thaxter, Robert Lowell, and others.
In Mobile, Alabama, state poet laureate, Sue Walker, is going to lead a dead poets celebration on Saturday, Oct 10th. They will meet at 10:00 a.m. at the grave of famous Mobile author, Eugene Walter, in the historic Church Street Graveyard.
Wisconsin’s poet laureate, Marilyn Taylor, will be holding a reading on October 7th at 7:00 p.m., at The Hefter Center, 3271 North Lake Drive. The event is sponsored by the English Department at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee.
At 7 p.m. on Wednesday, October 6th, in Ft. Collins, Colorado, State Poet Laureate, Mary Crow, has organized a reading with many celebrated local poets.
In Los Angeles, California, State Laureate, Carol Muske-Dukes, will be having a reading on October 10th. http://www.carolmuskedukes.com/schedule.htm
Kansas Poet Laureate, Caryn Mirriam-Goldberg, will be promoting the holiday during readings that weekend in Marshall County, Kansas. See her blog for details: http://CarynMirriamGoldberg.wordpress.com
Details about the October 7th reading of Norbert Krapf, the recent laureate of Indiana, will be posted on the Indiana Dead Poets Blog: http://deadpoets.typepad.com/dead_poes_society_of_indi/