The Poetry Programs of Hill-Stead Museum

Festival Calendar 2014


2014 Sunken Garden Poetry Festival Lineup

Hill-Stead Museum is thrilled to announce the fantastic lineup of poets scheduled for the 2014 Sunken Garden Poetry Festival, which is set to open on June 11 and conclude August 6 in the museum’s historic and beautiful Sunken Garden. This summer’s festival will feature five outstanding and award-winning headlining poets, four Connecticut-based opening poets, live music, the winner of the Sunken Garden Poetry Prize, and the winners of the Fresh Voices Poetry Competition.

The Sunken Garden Poetry Festival is presented with generous support from Connecticut Humanities. Additional support comes from The Beekley Center for Breast Health & Wellness at Bristol Hospital, Duncaster Retirement Community, and SKY Investment Group.

June 11: Kevin Young

h_youngkevin_lgThe festival opens on June 11 with National Book Award finalist Kevin Young. Born in 1970, Kevin Young is widely regarded as one of the leading poets of his generation, one who finds meaning and inspiration in African American music, particularly the blues, and in the bittersweet history of Black America. His many books of poetry include Ardency: A Chronicle of the Amistad Rebels (Knopf, 2011); Dear Darkness (Knopf, 2008); For the Confederate Dead (2007); and Book of Hours (2014). Black Maria: Poems Produced and Directed by Kevin Young is a “film noir in verse,” a playful homage to the language and imagery of Hollywood detective films.  Young was a 1993 National Poetry Series winner for Most Way Home, which also received the John C. Zacharis First Book Award of Ploughshares magazine. Other collections include To Repel Ghosts: Five Sides in B Minor (2001), a poetic tribute to painter and graffiti artist Jean-Michel Basquiat and a finalist for the James Laughlin Award of the Academy of American Poets; and Jelly Roll: A Blues (2003), a finalist for both the National Book Award and the Los Angeles Times Book Award.

The opening poet will be Willimantic-based V. Penelope Pelizzon, with music by The Shinolas.

Prelude discussion on Kevin Young led by poet and publisher Rennie McQuilkin.

June 25: Frank Bidart

FrankBidartOn June 25, Hill-Stead welcomes Pulitzer Prize nominee Frank Bidart.  Bidart’s most recent poetry collection, Metaphysical Dog, won the 2013 National Book Critics Circle Award and was a finalist for the National Book Award. His other collections of poetry include Watching the Spring Festival (FSG, 2008), Star Dust (FSG, 2005), Desire (FSG, 1997), and In the Western Night: Collected Poems 1965–90 (FSG, 1990). His many other prizes include the Wallace Stevens Award and the 2007 Bollingen Prize for American Poetry. He teaches at Wellesley College and lives in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

Opening poet will be West Hartford, CT-based poet Benjamin S. Grossberg. Music will be by Alien Folk Music.

Prelude discussion on Frank Bidart led by poet and professor Clare Rossini.

July 9: Alicia Ostriker

alicia-ostrikerPoet and critic Alicia Ostriker will share her work on July 9.  She has written fourteen volumes of poetry, including The Book of Life: Selected Jewish Poems 1979-2011; No Heaven; The Volcano Sequence; and The Imaginary Lover, winner of the William Carlos Williams Award.  Her next book, The Old Woman, the Tulip, and the Dog, will be out in winter 2014.  She was twice a National Book Award Finalist, for The Little Space (1998) and The Crack in Everything (1996). She is known for her intelligent and passionate appraisal of women’s place in literature, and for investigating themes of family, social justice, Jewish identity, and personal growth.  Ostriker’s poetry is at once moving and new, because it touches old and deep knowledge, and also opens the heart and mind again.

Opening poet will be Coventry, CT-based poet and teacher, John Stanizzi. Music will be by Herding Cats.

Prelude discussion on Alicia Ostriker led by poet and professor Edwina Trentham.

July 23: Jeffrey Harrison

jeffrey-harrisonThe affecting and affable Jeffrey Harrison will take the podium on July 23. His most recent book, Into Daylight, is the fastest-selling new book in Tupelo Press’ history. Harrison is the author of five full-length books of poetry—The Singing Underneath (1988), selected by James Merrill for the National Poetry Series, Signs of Arrival (1996), Feeding the Fire (2001), Incomplete Knowledge (2006), which was runner-up for the Poets’ Prize, and Into Daylight, published in 2014 by Tupelo Press as the winner of the Dorset Prize, as well as The Names of Things: New and Selected Poems, published in 2006 by Waywiser Press in the U.K. A recipient of Guggenheim and NEA Fellowships, as well as other honors, Harrison has published poems in The New Republic, The New Yorker, The Nation, and in many other magazines and anthologies. He has taught at George Washington University, Phillips Academy, where he was Writer-in-Residence, College of the Holy Cross, Framingham State University, the Stonecoast MFA Program, and the Solstice MFA Program, and he has visited many schools to read from his work and discuss poetry with students. Harrison lives in Massachusetts.

Opening poet will be Sunken Garden Poetry Prize winner Ted Lardner. The Sunken Garden Poetry Prize is awarded by Tupelo Press. Music to be announced.

Prelude discussion on Jeffrey Harrison led by poet and teacher John Stanizzi.

August 6: Aimee Nezhukumatathil

nezThe festival concludes on August 6 with acclaimed poet, writer and teacher Aimee Nezhukumatathil. Born to a Filipino mother and Malayali Indian father, Nezhukumatathil is the author of three books of poetry: Lucky Fish (2011), winner of the Hoffer Grand Prize for Prose and Independent Books; At the Drive-In Volcano (2007); and Miracle Fruit (2003), all from the Tupelo Press. Lucky Fish won the gold medal in Poetry for the Independent Publishers Book Awards and was featured in The New York Times and on the PBS NewsHour ArtsBeat. Poems from this collection were also awarded an NEA Fellowship in poetry, the Glenna Luschia Prize from Prairie Schooner, and the Angoff Award from The Literary Review for the best poems appearing that volume year. At the Drive-In Volcano was named winner of the Balcones Prize, which honors an outstanding collection published the previous year. Her first collection of poetry, Miracle Fruit, was selected by Gregory Orr for the Tupelo Press Prize and was the winner of ForeWord Magazine’s Book of the Year Award in poetry, the Global Filipino Literary Award. Other awards for her writing include the Pushcart Prize, a poetry fellowship to the Wisconsin Institute for Creative Writing, the Boatwright Prize from Shenandoah, and the Richard Hugo Prize from Poetry Northwest. Nezhukumatathil is a Professor of English at The State University of New York-Fredonia and lives in western New York with her husband and two young sons.

Winners of Hill-Stead’s Fresh Voices Poetry Competition for high school students and CT Poetry Circuit student poets will open. Music to be announced.

Festival Details

Festival events take place on Wednesday evenings.  Gates open at 4:30 pm; opening poet begins at 6:00 pm; music begins at 6:30; headlining poet begins at 7:25 pm.
Preludes – pre-performance talks on featured poets: 5:00-5:30 pm (all evenings except August 6)
Admission: $15 per person, ages 18 and under free. Parking is free.
Seating: Bring a lawn chair or blanket for seating in and around the garden.
Food: Al fresco dining is allowed on the grounds.  Participants are welcome to bring their own picnic suppers or purchase food/beverages on site.
In inclement weather, events take place under the tent.