, Gloucester, MA

October 10, 2012

Dead Poets come alive for a day

Times staff
Gloucester Daily Times

---- — The works, lives and spirits of several famous Gloucester poets were recalled and summoned Monday on a crisp, autumn holiday morning that spotlighted three community readings in Gloucester.

The first stop early in the morning was at Niles Beach, adjacent to Rocky Neck, to remember the work of Vincent Ferrini, the city’s poet laureate whose ashes had been scattered on that beach after his death in 2007.

One of his poems was solemnly read at the water’s edge to the backdrop of music strummed — while celebrants poured Cognac over the words “long live dead poets” that had been sketched into the sand. All the while, in the harbor nearby, people were going about their lives as usual, pulling up lobster traps as gulls flew overhead and shells lay glistening on the beach.

The small group moved next to the Gloucester Fishermen’s Wives Memorial, to hear aloud the works of Marsden Hartley, Elizabeth Stuart Phelps, and Clarence Manning Falt, before visiting the grave of Charles Olson at Beechbrook Cemetery soff Essex Avenue in West Gloucester.

The Gloucester events were part of the third annual Dead Poets Remembrance Day in Massachusetts, a two-day-long marathon that started on Sunday of eight readings of 40 poets at 20 different graves in the Boston area.

Other highlights around the region included a tribute to the poetry of John Updike in Ipswich, a special midnight reading of “The Raven” at Poe Corner and a literary journey through Mt. Auburn Cemetery to visit the graves of seven “Harvard Bards” buried there.

Dead Poets Remembrance Day is a new literary holiday that was started by Maine poet and filmmaker Walter Skold, who is known as “The Dead Poet Guy,” and 13 state poets laureate three years ago, after Skold conducted a three-month tour of 150 poets’ graves.

“The holiday hasn’t gone viral yet nationally,” says Skold, “but here in New England more people have taken part in the celebrations each year and really seem to enjoy it.”

“The more I attend those gatherings, the more apt and satisfying I find them,” said Rhina Espaillat, a nationally known “Powow Poet” from Newburyport. “After all, isn’t poetry the art entrusted with preserving our collective memory as a species, of exploring the memories of the dead and sending out ours into the future?”

“Members of the community are welcome to come and read their favorite poem from these or other North Shore authors,” said Skold. “The only stipulation is that the poet who wrote it is dead, as this is the day to honor them.”

The current partners for the events are: The Woodberry Poetry Room, The Worcester County Poetry Association, The Powow River Poets, Anne Bradstreet 400, The Stanley Kunitz Society, and Mt. Auburn Cemetery.

For more information about the day and its events see