Sunken Garden Poetry Festival 2014


The 2014 Sunken Garden Poetry Festival is presented with generous support from Connecticut Humanities. Additional support comes from The Connecticut Department of Economic and Community Development, The Richard P. Garmany Fund at Hartford Foundation for Public Giving, The Beekley Center for Breast Health & Wellness at Bristol Hospital, Duncaster Retirement Community, and SKY Investment Group.

Schedule: 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. THE SUNKEN GARDEN POETRY FESTIVAL GOES ON RAIN OR SHINE. In the case of inclement weather, the event is moved to a tented area.
Preludes – pre-performance talk on featured poet - 5:00-5:30 pm (all evenings except August 6)
Admission: $15 per person, ages 18 and under free. Parking is free.
Advnace tickets for purchase ONLINE ONLY:
$10 per person. Please print out scannable ticket at home and bring to festival. Advance ticket purchases are non-refundable.

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.

The 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.

On 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), andIn 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.

Poet 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.

The 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 of 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 is by the Artists Collective Steel Pan Ensemble. Prelude discussion on Jeffrey Harrison led by poet and teacher John Stanizzi.

The festival concludes on August 6 with acclaimed poet, writer and teacher Aimee Nezhukumatathil. Born to a Filipino mother and Malayali Indian father, Nezhukumatathil (neh-ZOO / koo-mah / tah-TILL) 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 on 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 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 other young poets from around CT will be featured as part of CT Young Poet Day. Gates Music will be by I Giovani Solisti. GATES OPEN AT 4 p.m. AND POETRY BEGINS AT 4:30 p.m. Aimee Nezhukumatathil will take the podium at 7:30 p.m.


In the historic Sunken Garden on the beautiful grounds of Hill-Stead, one of America's most important poetry events has delighted audiences since 1992. Come and join us and experience remarkable performances of live music and poetry in the midst of an exquisite natural setting. Discover the Sunken Garden Poetry Festival and discover how meaningful, accessible and inspiring poetry can be!

Many thanks to all of you for your enthusiasm and ongoing support of what Billy Collins has called a "cultural phenomenon!"


  • 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? (Download Benefits PDF). Join this growing circle of poetry lovers and we'll arrange for priority seating and special opportunities to meet the poets.
  • Visit for additional information on the Sunken Garden Poetry Festival!

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. To donate, please contact

Advertise in the 2014 Poetry Program! Email Amanda Guay at or call (860) 677-4787 ext 111 for information/reservations.

Become a Corporate Sponsor of the Poetry Festival – it's a win-win arrangement! For information on Corporate Sponsorship Opportunities, email .

Hill-Stead Museum  |  35 Mountain Road, Farmington, CT 06032  |  860.677.4787

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