The Poetry Programs of Hill-Stead Museum

Welcome to Sunken Garden Poetry

Final Event of the Season

FV 2014 winners

Left to right the Fresh Voices winners for 2014: Wenell St. Hill, Colleen Feeney, Shana Blatt, Sophia O’Brien-Udry, and Taite Puhala.


Our closing night of the Sunken Garden Poetry Festival on August 6 was a wonderful one; the gorgeous August evening, combined with stellar poetry and music, brought our largest crowd of the summer. Young poets from a number of groups across the state–including the CT Poetry Circuit, CT Young Writers Trust, Poetry Out Loud and the OneWord National Youth Poetry Slam Team–performed to a packed crowd in the Makeshift Theater. Later, the winners of Hill-Stead Museum’s Fresh Voices Poetry Competition took the podium in the Sunken Garden to share their original poems.

After a beautiful performance by the chamber ensemble I Giovani Solisti, which is made up of Conard and Hall High School students from West Hartford, the award-winning poet Aimee Nezhukumatathil rounded out the evening, delighting the crowd and signing books for nearly an hour after her reading.

Thank you to everyone who supported the 2014 Sunken Garden Poetry Festival. We are already at work planning next year’s festival. Enjoy the rest of the summer!

Under the Tent July 23


2013 Season Highlights: Video on Demand

To see four half-hour shows of last summer’s readings by Tracy  Smith, Philip Schultz, Carolyn Forche, and Richard Blanco, visit Nutmeg Television online or Simsbury Community Television online.

July 9

July9Our third evening of the 2014 Sunken Garden Poetry Festival was a great success, with poetry by John Stanizzi and Alicia Ostriker and music by Herding Cats. A crowd of 400 enjoyed the summer evening, which began with a Prelude conversation between poet Edwina Trentham and the delightful and provocative Alicia Ostriker.

Our fourth evening of poetry is right around the corner, with poet Jeffrey Harrison, Sunken Garden Poetry Prize winner Ted Lardner, and music by the Artists Collective Steel Pan Ensemble. Click here for tickets.

Opening Night


After a cool and rainy June day, the sun came through the clouds and shone down on opening night of the Sunken Garden Poetry Festival. The crowd enjoyed a Prelude discussion between poet Kevin Young and poet and publisher Rennie McQuilkin, a reading by poet and professor V. Penelope Pelizzon, wonderful music by The Shinolas, and then Kevin captivated the crowd with the final reading of the night. It was the perfect start to a summer of poetry in the garden!

Tickets Online

We are going to sell tickets online this year for the Sunken Garden Poetry Festival.  The tickets are to be printed out at home and will be scanned at the gate.  We have advance tickets available for Kevin Young online (non-refundable, rain or shine); follow this link. To buy advance tickets for Frank Bidart, click here; for Alicia Ostriker, here; for Jeffrey Harrison, here; and for Aimee Nezhukumatathil, here.

On the Radio

WNPR’s Where We Live program focused on the “Art and Power of Poetry” on Monday. Benjamin S. Grossberg, one of the opening poets featured at this year’s Sunken Garden Poetry Festival, was a guest. Have a listen!

2013: A Season to Remember!

The historic Sunken Garden at Hill-Stead filled again August 7, 2013, with old friends and new who gathered to listen to the exceptional jazz trio Indra and America’s favorite poet, Billy Collins. With 1600 in attendance for closing night, the crowd overflowed onto the lawns around the house and gathered along the stone walls to enjoy the communal experience of music and poetry in this beautiful place. Richard Blanco captured the unique sense of community the festival generates in these words about his recent reading, “It is our collective work, intentions, and most importantly our love for that which is good and great, lifting the human spirit beyond the ordinary challenges of our lives, and inspiring understanding and compassion. Namely, the arts, and poetry in particular in our case. It was a night I will cherish for the rest of my life.”

Highlights from our 2012 Poetry Festival on Cable TV and YouTube

We had a packed schedule during our 20th anniversary season. If you missed some events or would like to relive the great moments, have a look at our highlights shows done for local public access television. Nutmeg TV aired our series of five half-hour shows last spring, but you can watch them at your convenience online: click here to see the shows listed, then click on the word “View” next to the name of the show. Simsbury Community Television aired the same series of shows and has now made them available on its YouTube channel: Disc 1 (Anniversary Weekend, part 1, including Richard Wilbur), Disc 2 (Anniversary Weekend, part 2), Disc 3 (Dana Gioia and Christian Wiman), Disc 4 (Natasha Trethewey and Donald Hall), Disc 5 (Tony Hoagland and Mark Doty).


Sunken Garden Poetry: 1992-2011 – Have you purchased your copy of the 20th anniversary anthology yet?

To join Hill-Stead’s poetry mailing list, contact Amanda Guay at 860.677.4787 ext 111 or

Have you heard about the Live Poets Society?  Join this growing circle of poetry lovers and we’ll arrange for priority seating and special opportunities to meet the poets.  Or contribute to the Phyllis Joffe Memorial Poetry Fund, an endowment established by Sara Niego in 2010 in honor of her mother, the late Phyllis Joffe, who for many years was co-producer of festival radio broadcasts.

DONATE HERE –Help keep the Sunken Garden Poetry Festival alive for years to come!



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