A Summer to Remember

2015 was an unforgettable year for Sunken Garden Poetry Festival with seven sold-out writing workshops, two Pulitzer Prize winners, three poets laureate, and not a drop of rain.
Ted Kooser, U.S. Poet Laureate (2004-06) and Pulitzer Prize-winner, kicked-off the season with a standing room-only Prelude Interview and Hill-Stead’s largest Garden crowd of the season.

Vijay Seshadri performing at the 2015 Sunken Garden Poetry Festival

The temperature was as warm as the hearts of the poetry fans on July 12th for Marie Howe, New York State Poet Laureate (2012-14). A charming Prelude Conversation between Ms. Howe and Ciaran Berry was followed by Ciaran’s lovely opening performance in the Garden.

On July 22, Pulitzer Prize-winning Poet Vijay Seshadri made his Sunken Garden debut. Mr. Seshadri marveled, “It’s amazing to me that you can get this many people gathered together to listen to poetry!” That evening the audience was treated to a jazz performance by Mike Asetta, who was the Festival’s very first musical performer.


Celadon Youth performing at Outspoken

Hill-Stead presented a full weekend of Asian art, culture, and poetry on August 8 and 9. Tina Chang kicked off OUTSPOKEN: Celebration of Asian Poetry with a discussion and recitation workshop for Asian-Americans, which focused on the space between feeling “Asian” and feeling “American.” One participant reflected, “This workshop allowed me to think about my writing and my identity in a way that I’ve never thought about them before.” Ms. Chang then presented a Community Reading of Asian and Asian-American poetry with eight readers performing in seven Asian languages including: Chinese, Vietnamese, Urdu, Hindi, Japanese, Laotian, and Cambodian.

Fresh VoicesThe grand finale of the 2015 Poetry season celebrated Connecticut’s own student poets on CT Young Poets’ Day. It began with writing workshops and a poetry reading by students representing seven different literary organizations. Fresh Voices Winners Joscelyn Norris, Kayleigh Perkins and Cole Adams then took the stage for their opening performances in the Garden.

Hill-Stead is already in planning mode for the 2016 Poetry season. Thank you to the poets, sponsors, patrons, musicians, technicians, and corps of poetry lovers and volunteers who make the Sunken Garden Poetry Festival possible every year. See you in the Garden in 2016!

See highlights from the Sunken Garden Poetry Festival in Poetry Festival News, and Poetry Video

The Sunken Garden Poetry Festival

Hill-Stead Museum’s renowned Sunken Garden Poetry Festival is a unique outdoor arts event located on the grounds of this National Historic Landmark in the heart of Farmington.  The community cherishes this series of readings and music concerts in the informal outdoor setting of the Hill-Stead estate.

Visitors can come early to tour the museum’s world-class Impressionist art collection, walk the trails, or attend the prelude conversations with headlining poets.  Picnics are welcome and food and wine can be purchased from festival vendors.  Guests bring their own chairs and blankets and relax among the flower beds in the historic Sunken Garden, surrounded by eight foot stone walls and the sounds of nature.

For more information, view all poetry events >


  • $12 advanced on-line purchase,
  • $15 at the door, ages 18 and under free.

Writing Workshops

Small writing workshops with the headlining poets are offered within a day of the performance.

2015 Featured Poets

Wednesday, June 24 – Ted Kooser 

  • KooserThe festival opens with United States Poet Laureate (2004-2006) and Pulitzer Prize-winning Poet Ted Kooser.  He is the author of 14 full-length collections of poetry; including Splitting An Order (2014), Weather Central, and Delights and Shadows, which won the 2005 Pulitzer Prize. His prose books include The Wheeling Year (2014) and Local Wonders: Seasons in the Bohemian Alps, which won the Nebraska Book Award for Nonfiction in 2003. His writing has appeared in many periodicals including The Atlantic Monthly, Poetry, The Hudson Review, The Nation, The American Poetry Review, The Kenyon Review, Prairie Schooner, and Antioch Review. He has received two NEA fellowships in poetry, and written three children’s books from Candlewick Press, The Bell in the Bridge (2015), Bag in the Wind, illustrated by Barry Root, and The House Held Up by Trees.  
  • Ted Kooser is offering a 2-hour poetry writing workshop on Thursday, June 25 at 10 am. Seating is very limited.  THIS WORKSHOP IS SOLD OUT

Sunday, July 12 – Marie Howe

  • Marie HoweMarie Howe is the 2012-2014 Poet Laureate of New York State.  She is the author of three volumes of poetry; The Kingdom of Ordinary Time, The Good Thief, and What the Living Do.  She is also the co-editor of a book of essays, In the Company of My Solitude: American Writing from the AIDS Pandemic. She has been a fellow at the Bunting Institute at Radcliffe College and a recipient of NEA and Guggenheim fellowships.  Stanley Kunitz selected Howe for a Lavan Younger Poets Prize from the American Academy of Poets. Her poems have appeared in The New Yorker, The Atlantic, Poetry, AGNI, Ploughshares, Harvard Review, and The Partisan Review, among others.
  • Marie Howe is offering a 2-hour poetry writing workshop on Sunday, July 12 at 10 am. Seating is very limited.  THIS WORKSHOP IS SOLD OUT
  • Tonight’s music is by Zingerz.

Wednesday, July 22 – Vijay Seshadri & Ravi Shankar

  • VijayPulitzer Prize-winning poet Vijay Seshadri is the author of three collections of poetry; 3 Sections, which was awarded the 2014 Pulitzer Prize for Poetry,The Long Meadow, which won the James Laughlin Award, and Wild Kingdom. His poems, essays, and reviews have appeared in AGNI,The American Scholar, Antaeus, Bomb, Boulevard, Lumina, The Nation, The New Yorker, The Paris Review, Shenandoah, Southwest Review, The Threepenny Review, Verse, Western Humanities Review, Yale Review, The Times Book Review, the Philadelphia Enquirer,Bomb, San Diego Reader, and TriQuarterly, and in many anthologies, including Under 35: The New Generation of American Poets, Contours of the Heart, Staying Alive: Real Poems for Unreal Times, and Best American Poetry.
  • Vijay Seshadri is offering a 2-hour poetry writing workshop on Thursday, July 23 at 10 am. Seating is very limited. THIS WORKSHOP IS SOLD OUT
  • Tonight’s music by Mike Assetta.

Sunday, August 9 – Li-Young Lee & Tina Chang

  • leeLi-Young Lee is the author of four books of poetry, including, most recently, Behind My Eyes. His earlier collections are Book of My Nights; Rose, winner of the Delmore Schwartz Memorial Award; The City in Which I Love You, the 1990 Lamont Poetry Selection; and a memoir entitledThe Winged Seed: A Remembrance, which received an American Book Award from the Before Columbus Foundation and will be reissued by BOA Editions in 2012. Lee’s honors include fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts, The Lannan Foundation, and the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation, as well as grants from the Illinois Arts Council, the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, and the Pennsylvania Council on the Arts.
  • Li-Young Lee is offering a 2-hour poetry writing workshop on Saturday, August 8, 3 to 5 pm. Seating is very limited. THIS WORKSHOP IS SOLD OUT
  • Tina Chang is the Poet Laureate of Brooklyn. The first woman nameChangd to this position, she was raised in New York City. She is the author of the poetry collections Half-Lit Houses and Of Gods & Strangers (Four Way Books) and co-editor of the anthology Language for a New Century: Contemporary Poetry from the Middle East, Asia and Beyond (W.W. Norton, 2008) along with Nathalie Handal and Ravi Shankar. Her poems have appeared in American Poet, McSweeney’s, Ploughshares, and the New York Times among others. THIS WORKSHOP IS SOLD OUT
  • Tonight’s music by Celadon Youth

Wednesday, August 19 – CT Young Poet’s Day Natalie Diaz & Aja Monet

  • diazNative American Poet Natalie Diaz is the author of When My Brother Was an Aztec. Her work has been recognized by the Lannan Foundation, and she has received the Nimrod/Hardman Pablo Neruda Prize for Poetry, the Louis Untermeyer Scholarship in Poetry from Bread Loaf, and the Narrative Poetry Prize. Her poetry and other writing can be found in Ploughshares,Narrative, The Rumpus, and Gwarlingo. She lives in  Arizona.


  • Aja Monet is an award-winning performance poet. Harry Belafonte once called Aja Monet “The true definition of an artist.” An internationally established poet, Monet is the youngest individual to win the legendary Nuyorican Poet’s Café Grand Slam title. Her books of poetry are Inner-City Chants & Cyborg Cyphers, (2015) and The Black Unicorn Sings (Penmanship Books). In addition, she collaborated with poet/musician Saul Williams on the book Chorus: a literary mixtape (MTV books/Simon & Schuster). Her first CD Scared to Make Love/Scared Not To, a testament to her creative lens and a social commentary on the discussion of love, was independently released through Bandcamp.  Of Cuban-Jamaican heritage, Monet has performed at world-renowned venues including the Town Hall Theater, the Apollo Theater, the United Nations in New York City, and the NAACP’s Barack Obama Inaugural event in Washington DC.


Thanks to our many donors and sponsors for their generous support the Sunken Garden Poetry Festival.

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