In this 9-minute Atlanta NPR interview with producer Stephannie Stokes, Skold discussed what he hopes to achieve on his Southern tour, how the son of writer John Updike came to design Skold's own headstone and why he thinks many deceased poets deserve greater recognition today.
Sean Hurley of NH NPR did a great radio story on Dead Poets Remembrance Day 2014, which you can still listen to.
Alice B. Foley, the NH Poet Laureate, said at last year's DPRD event:
Dead Poets Remembrance Day events are a delightful way to connect with poets we may have forgotten or put aside, as well as with all the participants and attendees. I can't wait till the next one to see who else we can resurrect, and I highly recommend hosting events like this in every state.
On May 30th the Graves of Southern Poets Grand Tour 2015 will begin at E.A. Poe's grave in Baltimore. Check out the itinerary and meet Dedgar and me On The Road as we visit 90 poets' graves in 16 States. Somewhere on this epic literary journey we'll be reaching our 500th poet's grave in 6 years.
The readings we film and the pictures of tombstones we document will be part of our 1-of-a-kind historical archive and some of it will be used in the feature documentary film now in production: "Finding Frost: Poets and Their Graves." Look for a Kickstarter campaign soon for funding this final leg of the "Finding Frost" journey!
Oct 4, 2013
PORTLAND, Maine (AP) — A Maine man who's devoted himself to honoring the memory of poets from the past has now visited 300 grave sites of poets ahead of this weekend's fourth annual Dead Poets Remembrance Day.
Walter Skold of Freeport reached the milestone Monday when he visited the burial sites of Anne Whitney, William Reed Huntington and Mary Baker Eddy in Mount Auburn Cemetery in Cambridge, Mass. Eddy is best known as the founder of Christian Science, but she was also an accomplished poet.
Skold said he was half-joking when he first said he wanted to visit the graves of 500 dead poets who had at least one book of poetry published, in their lifetime or posthumously. But now he's serious and has identified the gravesites of 201 more bards in the U.S. and Europe, including those of T.S. Eliot, W.H. Auden and Sylvia Plath.
"I never really expected that this would go on this long and become such a focus," Skold said. "But I'm happy it has."
Skold founded the Dead Poets Society of America and began visiting and documenting the graves of dead poets in 2009 in an effort to draw attention to dead and largely forgotten writers. Traveling in a van nicknamed the Poemobile, he visited 150 graves in 23 states during his 90-day trek that year.
Since then, he's been calling on more graves to bring more attention to the art of poetry. He, with the help of 13 current and past state poets laureate, also founded Dead Poets Remembrance Day, to be held each Oct. 7, the day that Edgar Allen Poe died and James Whitcomb Riley was born. Whitcomb has among the largest poet's graves in the U.S., in Indianapolis.
Now in its fourth year, this year's event kicks off Friday at the gravesite of Edna St. Vincent Millay and Cora Millay at the Millay home in Austerlitz, N.Y. Through the weekend, additional poetry readings are scheduled at burial grounds in New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Illinois and California.
Meg L. Winslow, the curator of historical collections at Mount Auburn Cemetery, was among those who accompanied Skold when he visited the three graves Monday.
In researching the cemetery, Winslow has identified 37 poets who are buried there. Skold is bringing those poets and their works to life, she said.
"Mount Auburn is a place of memories and stories," she said, "and what he's doing is rediscovering a lot of the stories and celebrating the art that they wrote."
Skold is hopeful he can visit 63 more burial sites he's identified in the Northeast this fall. But to get to 500 will require some additional funding, he said.
He's hoping to find a patron of poetry to fund his travels. In exchange, Skold will donate his videotapes, photographs and items he's collected from the gravesites to a museum or other institution in the name of the patron.
"What I have is becoming a cultural archaeological resource of the poets' graves," he said.
Dead Poets Remembrance Day: http://deadpoets.typepad.com/dprd/
Contact Walter Skold : firstname.lastname@example.org
May 25th -- On May 30th Dedgar the Poemobile and the Dead Poet Guy will set out from Freeport, Maine to the grave of Edgar Allan Poe in Baltimore, on a 16-State, 10-week pilgrimage to 90 Southern poets' graves.
During the journey Walter Skold, a poet and filmmaker from Freeport, is hoping to reach the 500th grave of his 6-year project.
"Nothing like this has been done in American literary history," said Skold, who is recording his journeys for a documentary film. “First there was the Batmobile, then the L.L.Bean Bootmobile, but now there is Dedgar The PoeMobile!”
"We’d like to meet at least one person at each poet's grave as we journey through every Southern state,” said Skold, who has researched and visited 432 poets' graves in the USA and Italy thus far.
This is the fourth cross-country Grand Tour that Skold has gone on with his trusty sidekick, Dedgar The Poemobile, a souped-up Dodge Sprinter with solar panels.
"Kerouac hitchhiked, Steinbeck had Rocinante, and Ken Kesey had Furthur," said Skold. "But I've got Dedgar.”
After having visited so many graves of poets, Skold, who nearly died of a heart attack after visiting Walt Whitman's grave in 2010, says that every day above ground is a good day.
"I have learned, or maybe re-learned, two main things from poets' stories," he says. "That love is the most important aspect of life, and that life is brief."
He says he learned this from the epitaphs on the graves he has documented as well as in interviews with family members who have met him at their loved-ones grave.
"The 3-fold focus on this particular trip is on the graves of 40 State Poets Laureate, African-American poets, and women poets," said Skold, whose history and library science degrees help him "dig up" dead poets.
Another purpose for the journey is to promote the 6th annual Dead Poets Remembrance Day, which will take place this October 4th.
The Southern Poets’ Graves Grand Tour itinerary is on the trip blog, where people can sign up for an email to see pictures from the graves which are visited.
Dedgar the Poemobile had the great pleasure of meeting Rocinante in Salinas. Before that we stopped at the grave of John Steinbeck. We got this headline: in the Monterey Weekly
(This national AP story was in over 100 papers last week - and has already led to 3 new poets' graves!) Roanoke Times— A former teacher who travels the country to document the final resting places of poets is looking forward to calling attention to African-American poets on a tour of the South and elsewhere.
Black poets have been writing about injustice and hardship since the days of slavery, and the theme rings true today, given the recent unrest surrounding police killings of black men, Walter Skold said.
"African-American poets have been going through the same turmoil. They've been right there. They've chronicled the great sorrows and successes that African-Americans have had," he said. Fifteen African-American poets include Albery Whitman, who was born a slave, spoke out against the treatment of the Seminoles in Florida and was dubbed the "poet laureate of the Negro race." He's buried in Atlanta.
Others include Arna Bontemps, a Louisiana-born poet who was part of the Harlem Renaissance and is buried in Nashville, Tennessee; Robert Charles Benjamin, who's buried in Lexington, Kentucky, where he was shot in 1900 while trying to get blacks to register to vote; and Melvin Tolson, Liberia's poet laureate, buried in Guthrie, Oklahoma.
The Great Western States Grand Tour 2014 (daily blog) was an historic 3-month journey to the graves of over 75 poets in 11 Western States. (See full map). Along the journey Dedgar The Poemobile will be meeting poets to film readings for inclusion in the historical archive as well as for the feature documentary film "Finding Frost: Poets and their Graves."