The Poetry Programs of Hill-Stead Museum
Festival events take place on Wednesday evenings. Gates open at 4:30; Preludes (pre-performance lecture/discussions on featured poets) take place 5–6:00 pm; music begins at 6:15 pm; poetry begins at 7:15 pm. In inclement weather, events take place under the tent. For detailed festival information, please scroll to the bottom of this page.
Prelude (5:00-6:00 pm): Fresh Voices Reading – high school and college-age winners of CT poetry competitions: Hill-Stead’s Fresh Voices Competition/Hill-Stead-Hartford Poetry Outreach/ Poetry Out Loud/Connecticut Young Writers Trust/ Connecticut Poetry Circuit/ Student Poets Laureate at the Arts Café Mystic/ OneWord CT – National Youth Poetry Slam Team/ASAP – After School Arts Program.
“A poet of extraordinary range and ambition [whose work] first sends us out into the magnificent chill of the imagination and then returns us to ourselves, both changed and consoled.” —New York Times
Tracy K. Smith is the author of three books of poetry. Her most recent collection, Life on Mars (Graywolf, 2011), won the 2012 Pulitzer Prize and was selected as a New York Times Notable Book. The collection draws on sources as disparate as Arthur C. Clarke and David Bowie and is in part an elegiac tribute to her late father, an engineer who worked on the Hubble Telescope. Duende (2007) won the 2006 James Laughlin Award from the Academy of American Poets and an Essence Literary Award. The Body’s Question (2003) was the winner of the 2002 Cave Canem Poetry Prize. Smith was the recipient of a Rona Jaffe Writers Award in 2004 and a Whiting Award in 2005.
Smith’s poems embody the lyrical, rhythmic quality of masters such as Lorca. At times political, whimsical, and always meditative, they speak largely to the role of art and to the conception of what it means to be American, dealing with the “evolution and decline of the culture we belong to.” Her work also explores the dichotomy between the ordered world and the irrationality of the self, the importance of submitting oneself willingly to the “ongoing conflict” of life and surviving nonetheless. For Smith, in her own words, poetry is a way of “stepping into the mess of experience.”
After her undergraduate work at Harvard, Smith earned her MFA at Columbia before going on to be a Stegner Fellow in Poetry at Stanford University from 1997 to 1999. She currently teaches Creative Writing at Princeton University and has also taught at Columbia, City University of New York, and the University of Pittsburgh. She lives in Brooklyn.
Developed under the direction of the world-renowned alto saxophonist/educator/composer Jackie McLean, founder of the Artists Collective, the Youth Jazz Ensemble was re-named in his honor following his passing in March 2006. The ensemble is now directed by Rene McLean, an acclaimed multi-instrumentalist, composer and artist- in-residence, and performs compositions from the traditional jazz genre, including the music of jazz legends such as Duke Ellington, Count Basie, Thelonious Monk, Charlie Parker and Jackie McLean. The Artists Collective was founded in 1970 as an interdisciplinary arts and cultural institution serving the Greater Hartford area, the only organization of its kind in Connecticut emphasizing the cultural and artistic contributions of the African Diaspora. The Collective offers the highest quality training and performance in dance, theatre, music and visual arts.
Prelude on Philip Schultz (5:00-6:00 pm) led by Eleanor Kedney. Eleanor is The Writers Studio Director of Branch Studios and founder of The Writers Studio Tucson. Her poems have appeared in Many Mountains Moving, NY Quarterly, American Poets & Poetry, among others.
“Philip Schultz’s poems have long since earned their own place in American poetry. His stylistic trademarks are his great emotional directness and his intelligent haranguing—of god, the reader, and himself. He is one of the least affected of American poets, and one of the fiercest.” —Tony Hoagland
One of American poetry’s longtime masters of the art, Philip Schultz is a Pulitzer Prize-winning poet and the founder/director of The Writers Studio, a private school for fiction and poetry writing based in New York City. He is the author of several collections of poetry, including Failure (Harcourt, 2007), winner of the 2008 Pulitzer Prize. These poems give voice to failures of many kinds and yet they are full of tenderness, empathy, and heartbreaking honesty, giving equal praise to the joy of life. His other collections include The God of Loneliness: New and Selected Poems (2010), Living in the Past (2004), and The Holy Worm of Praise (2002), all published by Harcourt. He is also the author of Deep Within the Ravine (Viking, 1984), recipient of The Academy of American Poets Lamont Prize; Like Wings (Viking, 1978), winner of an American Academy & Institute of Arts and Letters Award and a National Book Award Finalist; and the poetry chapbook My Guardian Angel (Stein, 1986). He has also published a memoir entitled My Dyslexia (Norton, 2011), in which he recounts his difficulties with the debilitating language disability and his struggles to overcome it.
Schultz’s work has been published in The New Yorker, Partisan Review, The New Republic, The Paris Review, Slate, and other magazines. He is the recipient of a Fullbright Fellowship and a 2005 Guggenheim Fellowship in poetry. He also received a National Endowment for the Arts Fellowship in Poetry (1981), a New York Foundation for the Arts Fellowship in Poetry (1985), as well as the Levinson Prize from Poetry magazine. Schultz lives in East Hampton, New York, with his wife, sculptor Monica Banks, and their two sons, Elias and August.
Reserve a space at Philip Schultz’s New York Writers Studio Three-Day Teacher Workshop.
Covert Jazz is a 5-piece ensemble that performs a musically sophisticated and pleasing jazz sound. The immense versatility of this group is showcased in an extensive array of styles, including Jazz Standards, Latin Jazz, Straight Ahead, Fusion Jazz, Blues, and Funk.
Covert Jazz features female vocals, rhythm and lead guitars, keyboard, bass, and percussion/drums. Covert Jazz members are lifelong musicians motivated to achieve musical and performance excellence. Shining with versatility, and liveliness this all-star collective offers you music that is always authentic, vibrant, soulful and fun.
Visit us at www.covertjazz.com.
Prelude on Carolyn Forche (5:00-6:00 pm) led by Kate Doemland. Kate is Chair of the English Department at Miss Porters School, Farmington, and oversees the school’s poetry program presenting major poets at Miss Porters each year.
Award-winning Poet of Witness, Human Rights Advocate
“Carolyn Forché shows how people survive in an unbearable world.”—Daina Savage
Renowned as a “poet of witness,” Carolyn Forché is the author of four books of poetry. Her first poetry collection, Gathering The Tribes (Yale University Press, 1976), won the Yale Series of Younger Poets Award. In 1977, she traveled to Spain to translate the work of Salvadoran-exiled poet Claribel Alegría and, upon her return, received a John Simon Guggenheim Foundation Fellowship, which enabled her to travel to El Salvador where she worked as a human rights advocate. Her second book, The Country Between Us (Harper and Row, 1982), received the Poetry Society of America’s Alice Fay di Castagnola Award and was also the Lamont Selection of the Academy of American Poets. Her third book of poetry, The Angel of History (HarperCollins, 1994), was chosen for The Los Angeles Times Book Award. Blue Hour is her fourth collection of poems (HarperCollins, 2003). She is currently at work on a memoir of her years in El Salvador, Lebanon, South Africa and France.
Forché’s anthology, Against Forgetting: Twentieth Century Poetry of Witness, was published by W.W. Norton & Co. in 1993. Her translation of Claribel Alegria’s work, Flowers From The Volcano, was published by the University of Pittsburgh Press in 1983. In 2000 Curbstone Press published a new book of her translations of Alegría, entitled Sorrow. In 1983, Writers and Readers Cooperative (New York and London) published El Salvador: Work of Thirty Photographers, for which she wrote the text. In 1991, The Ecco Press published her translations of The Selected Poetry of Robert Desnos (with William Kulik). She co-translated Selected Poetry of Mahmoud Darwish (University of California Press, 2002), from which a chapbook selection had been published by The Lannan Foundation (2001).
In 1998 in Stockholm, she was given the Edita and Ira Morris Hiroshima Foundation for Peace and Culture Award, in recognition of her work on behalf of human rights and the preservation of memory and culture. Her articles and reviews have appeared in The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Nation, Esquire, Mother Jones, and others. Forché has held three fellowships from The National Endowment for the Arts and in 1992 received a Lannan Foundation Literary Fellowship. Carolyn Forché is Lannan Visiting Professor of Poetry and Professor of English at Georgetown University; she lives in Maryland with her husband, photographer Harry Mattison.
Mary Jo Firth Gillett’s collection, Soluble Fish, won the Crab Orchard Series First Book Award (Southern Illinois University Press, ’07). She has also published three prize-winning chapbooks of poetry: Not One (The Writer’s Voice of Metropolitan Detroit, ’98), Tiger in a Hairnet (Small Poetry Press, ’99), and Chandeliers of Fish (Poetry West Press, ’04). Mary Jo’s poems have appeared in The Southern Review, The Getttysburg Review, Harvard Review, Michigan Quarterly Review, Green Mountains Review, Salamander, and other literary journals as well as the Verse Daily website. She won the N.Y. Open Voice Poetry Award and a 2012 Kresge Artist Fellowship in the Literary Arts. Mary Jo received an MFA from Vermont College and lives in Pleasant Ridge, Michigan.
Abu Alvin Carter Sr. has been involved with conga drums for over 45 years. His exposure to the music of Western and Central Africa, the Caribbean Islands, South America, and the United States has helped him to mold a style of drumming that he calls “Afro-Caribbean.” He’s lectured and taught his style of drumming at schools, artist collectives, churches, libraries, and colleges throughout the Northeast. Abu is considered to be a mentor for all hand drummers in the Springfield, Hartford, and New Haven areas. A founding member of “People of Good Will”, Mr. Carter has been privileged to work with many of the finest Traditional-African, Jazz, Pop, Folk, and World Music artists in the U.S.
Jim Mercik is a Connecticut multi-instrumentalist, songwriter, and arranger who performs widely as a soloist, an accompanist, and band member. He’s appeared in concert with a multitude of artists, including Eric Andersen, Eric Von Schmidt, bluesman Paul Geremia, and Grammy Award winners Bonnie Raitt and Ramblin’ Jack Elliot. He was a founding member of the popular Eastern Connecticut band The Roadbirds and is currently performing as a member of the Congo Square Ramblers. His composition “Is This Enough” has been included in the Smithsonian’s Permanent Collection of Folk Music in Washington, DC. Jim is a lifelong student and performer of American jazz and roots music, and continues to utilize performance, lessons, lecturing, and radio to spread the news of jazz and blues to everyone in the Northeast regions of the USA.
Prelude on Richard Blanco (5:00-6:00 pm) led by Bessy Reyna. Bessy has been involved with Hill-Stead’s festival since 1993. She has read twice at the festival, presented writing workshops and participated in the Hartford Poetry Outreach. Her most recent publication is “Memoirs of the Unfaithful Lover” (tunAstral, Mexico, 2010)
President Obama’s inaugural poet 2013
“The poems … croon about journeys from Cuba and Spain to Florida and Maine; mourn languages, lovers, and names that were or could have been…If all loss is like exile, Blanco tells us, then searching for love (in the self, in others) is healing, is finding home, because ‘love is thicker than any country.’” —Rigoberto González
Richard Blanco was made in Cuba, assembled in Spain, and imported to the United States”—meaning his mother, seven months pregnant, and the rest of the family arrived as exiles from Cuba in Madrid where he was born. Only forty-five days later, the family emigrated once more and settled in New York City, then eventually in Miami where he was raised and educated.
His acclaimed first book of poetry, City of a Hundred Fires, explores the yearnings and negotiation of cultural identity as a Cuban-American and received the Agnes Starrett Poetry Prize from the University of Pittsburgh Press. His second book, Directions to The Beach of the Dead, won the Beyond Margins Award from the PEN American Center for its continued exploration of the universal themes of cultural identity and homecoming. A third collection, Looking for The Gulf Motel, was published by the University of Pittsburgh Press in 2012.
His poems have appeared in top literary journals including The Nation, The New Republic, Ploughshares, Michigan Quarterly Review, and TriQuarterly Review; and several anthologies including The Best American Poetry, Great American Prose Poems, Breadloaf Anthology of New American Poets, and American Poetry: The Next Generation. He has been featured on National Public Radio’s All Things Considered and at various conferences and venues including the Miami Book Fair, The Southern Writers Conference, The Sunken Garden Poetry Festival, the Dodge Poetry Festival, and The Poetry Center at Smith College.
Blanco is recipient of two Florida Artist Fellowships, a Residency Fellowship from the Virginia Center for the Creative Arts; he is a John Ciardi Fellow of the Bread Loaf Writers Conference. A builder of cities as well as poems, he holds a bachelors of science degree in Civil Engineering and a Master in Fine Arts in Creative Writing.
In January of this year, Blanco read his work at the second inauguration of President Obama.
Click here to hear Colin McEnroe’s interview with Richard Blanco on National Public Radio.
Martin Hayes is one of the most extraordinary talents to emerge in the world of Irish traditional music. His unique sound, his mastery of the violin, his acknowledgement of the past and his shaping of the future of the music, combine to create an astonishing and formidable artistic intelligence. He is the recipient of major awards: most recently the prestigious Gradam Ceoil, Musician of the Year 2008 from the Irish language television station TG 4; previously Man of the Year from the American Irish Historical Society; Folk Instrumentalist of the Year from BBC Radio; a National Entertainment Award (the Irish ‘Grammy’); and six All-Ireland fiddle championships before the age of nineteen.
Martin Hayes was raised in Maghera, Feakle, East County Clare, a region rich in traditional music, where the music which he learned from his father, P. Joe Hayes, profoundly influenced his musical accent and ideas forever after. He has drawn musical inspiration from sources as diverse as the Finnish composer Arvo Part, the Spanish viola da gamba master, Jordi Savall, and the jazz genius, John Coltrane, but remains grounded in the music he grew up with. He has traveled the world with his musical partner, guitarist Dennis Cahill, from Chicago, and their resulting collaboration continues to reveal the often hidden emotional depth of the music. The three duet recordings of Martin Hayes and Dennis Cahill have been widely praised and cherished by fans throughout the world.
Prelude: Dinner with Billy Collins (see below)
“Billy Collins writes lovely poems…Limpid, gently and consistently startling, more serious than they seem, they describe all the worlds that are and were and some others besides.” —John Updike
Billy Collins is an American phenomenon. No poet since Robert Frost has managed to combine high critical acclaim with such broad popular appeal. His work has appeared in a variety of periodicals including The New Yorker, The Paris Review, and The American Scholar; he is a Guggenheim fellow and a New York Public Library “Literary Lion.” His last three collections of poems have broken sales records for poetry. His readings are usually standing room only, and his audience – enhanced tremendously by his appearances on National Public Radio – includes people of all backgrounds and age groups. The poems themselves best explain this phenomenon. The typical Collins poem opens on a clear and hospitable note but soon takes an unexpected turn; poems that begin in irony may end in a moment of lyric surprise. No wonder Collins sees his poetry as “a form of travel writing” and considers humor “a door into the serious.” It is a door that many thousands of readers have opened with amazement and delight.
Billy Collins has published numerous collections of poetry, including Questions About Angels, The Art of Drowning, Picnic, Lightning, Taking Off Emily Dickinson’s Clothes, Sailing Alone Around the Room: New & Selected Poems, Nine Horses, The Trouble With Poetry and Other Poems, Ballistics, and, most recently, Horoscopes for the Dead. A collection of his haiku, titled She Was Just Seventeen, was published by Modern Haiku Press in fall 2006. He also edited two anthologies of contemporary poetry: Poetry 180: A Turning Back to Poetry and 180 More: Extraordinary Poems for Every Day, was the guest editor of The Best American Poetry 2006, and edited Bright Wings: An Illustrated Anthology of Poems about Birds, with paintings by David Allen Sibley (November 2009). His next book, Aimless Love: Poems 2003 – 2013, will be released in March 2013.
Included among the honors Billy Collins has received are fellowships from the New York Foundation for the Arts, the National Endowment for the Arts, and the Guggenheim Foundation. He has also been awarded the Oscar Blumenthal Prize, the Bess Hokin Prize, the Frederick Bock Prize, and the Levinson Prize — all awarded by Poetry magazine. In October, 2004, Collins was selected as the inaugural recipient of the Poetry Foundation’s Mark Twain Prize for Humor in Poetry. In June 2001, Billy Collins was appointed United States Poet Laureate 2001-2003. In January 2004, he was named New York State Poet Laureate 2004-06. Billy Collins is a Distinguished Professor of English at Lehman College of the City University of New York, as well as a Senior Distinguished Fellow of the Winter Park Institute at Rollins College.
“This is a singer that, in spite of her age, can sing with a depth that is rarely heard. Here is an incredibly musically gifted singer” —Jazz Special Magazine
Indra is an accomplished, adventurous jazz trio that was founded in Aarhus, Denmark, featuring the supple and moving vocals of New York City native Indra Rios-Moore on soulfully arranged songs. From American jazz standards and contemporary arrangements of traditional folk songs to Mexican boleros and newly composed pieces, Indra’s style and voice has been described as a blend of Eva Cassidy’s blues and folk style with the charisma of the legendary Sarah Vaughan.
During the fall of 2006 Indra met the Danish jazz saxophonist, Benjamin Traerup, in Brooklyn. From New York to Denmark, their mutual passion for jazz has developed into a unique musical partnership. Together with bassist Thomas Sejthen, the married couple has played in the trio Indra since 2007, performing throughout Northern Europe and the United States. This summer, they are finally returning to the U.S. permanently to lay down roots, begin their third recording and establish themselves on the U.S. music scene after managing to become a major name on the Danish jazz stage in a few short years.
Indra’s repertoire brims with spacious arrangements that braid together Indra’s mesmerizing voice, Traerup’s vibrant, melodic saxophone, and Sejthen’s muscular, percussive bass (with fiddle and vocals from Rani Arbo on several tracks). Their two CD recordings reflect four years distillation of their unique sound with powerful emotion and playful originality. Their first CD includes jazz standards (My One and Only Love, Cry Me a River, Estate), traditional American folk (Rain and Snow), Gospel (No More My Lord), a Mexican Bolero (Mil Besos), and jazzy twists on singer-songwriter fare (Brooks Williams’ Mountain). Their newest recording, in between, is equally versatile and not to be missed.
Reserve a spot now, seating limited. Featuring Billy Collins as speaker, 4:30–6:30 pm (dinner begins at 5:00 pm). Tickets – $100/person, festival admission included. All proceeds support Sunken Garden Poetry programs. Email Sarah Wadsworth at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 860.677.4787 ext 134.
Day/Time: Festival events take place on Wednesday evenings. Gates open at 4:30 pm. Preludes (pre-performance lecture/discussions) take place 5–6:00 pm. Music begins at 6:15 pm; poetry begins at 7:15 pm. Books and CDs available for sale 5:30–8:30 pm.
Venue: All performances will be at Hill-Stead Museum, rain or shine. Hill-Stead’s poetry tent will be up all season for use in inclement weather.
Admission: For 2013, entrance fee is $10 per person. Now young people 18 years and under are free! Parking is free. **Payment at gate by cash or check only, no cards please.
Seating: Bring a lawn chair or blanket for seating in and around the garden.
Parking: Free on-site parking available.
Books etc: At each festival event, books by our featured poets are for sale, as well as the new Sunken Garden Poetry anthology and prints of the anthology cover painting, Summerhouse, by Deborah Wadsworth. The famous R. J. Julia of Madison is the new festival book vendor!
Food: Al fresco dining is allowed on the West Lawn, at picnic tables and in the Sunken Garden on performance evenings. Participants are welcome to bring their own picnic suppers or purchase food and beverages on site from Tallulah’s Caterers of West Hartford.
Accessibility: Hill-Stead’s Sunken Garden is wheelchair accessible.
Driving Directions: plan a visit to Hill-Stead