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Rescheduled – Joy Harjo – Sunken Garden Poetry Festival

September 15, 2020, 5:00 pm - 7:45 pm

With Margaret Gibson
Music by Orice Jenkins

Due to inclement weather, Hill-Stead’s Sunken Garden Poetry Festival will be held on Tuesday, September 15.


This night of the Sunken Garden Poetry Festival features the United States poet laureate, Joy Harjo; Connecticut poet laureate Margaret Gibson; with music by Orice Jenkins.

This year’s event will take place on the West Lawn and attendees will be properly socially distanced in clearly-marked pods. Bring a blanket, chairs, and a picnic. Inspired by the surroundings, many attendees take the opportunity to write their own poetry and prose, lingering after dusk to finish their poems and conversations.

Don’t fret if you cannot be there in person. You can tune in from the comfort of your home with a Livestream presentation as it happens.

New Event – A Conversation with Joy Harjo

September 13, 12 pm

Join us for a Conversation with Joy Harjo highlighting her craft, writing life, and her role as Poet Laureate.
Please note: this is event requires a separate ticket $30 ticket.


For additional poetry events, see our Calendar.

Main Event Schedule

5 pm  Gates open
5:15 pm  Performance by singer/songwriter and multi-instrumentalist Orice Jenkins
5:45 pm  An interview with Joy Harjo moderated by Margaret Gibson,
6:30 pm  Poetry reading by Margaret Gibson, Connecticut poet laureate
7 pm  Poetry reading by Joy Harjo, 23rd poet laureate of the United States

Please note: Dujie Tahat, Winner of the Tupelo Press Sunken Garden Poetry Award will no longer be performing due to travel-related issues associated with the pandemic. 


In-person ticket  |  $20 per person
Tickets must be purchased in advance. No tickets will be sold at the gate. Purchase in-person tickets here.

Livestream ticket  |  $10 per household
Enjoy the world-class Sunken Garden Poetry Festival from the comforts of your own backyard or couch! Purchase live stream tickets here.

For reserved seating with chairs and VIP parking, please join The Live Poets Society.

Signed Poetry Volumes Available

Please check out these must-read picks from the celebrated poets of Hill-Stead’s 2020 Sunken Garden Poetry Festival. Click on a title to be taken to RJ Julia Booksellers to purchase. You will receive a signed bookplate by either Joy Harjo and Mahogany L. Browne, depending on the title purchased.

Joy Harjo

An American Sunrise
When The Light of the World Was Subdued, Our Songs Came Through
Crazy Brave

Mahogany L. Browne

Woke: A Young Poet’s Guide to Justice 
Black Girl Magic  
Woke Baby 

Accessibility at the SGPF

Hill-Stead is proud to make the Sunken Garden Poetry Festival accessible. Wheelchair ramps are available, and many volunteers are on hand to assist the mobility impaired. An accessible section is reserved close to the main stage, and a large-print edition of the program book is available on-site.

Hill-Stead makes every effort to ensure that deaf and hard-of-hearing people feel welcome. ASL interpreters are provided at the main Poetry stage (depending on interpreter availability) or by request in advance by calling 860-677-4787 x111.

Help us keep each other safe and stop the spread of COVID 19

Joy Harjo was appointed the new United States Poet Laureate in June 2019 and is the first Native American Poet Laureate in the history of the position. Joy is an internationally renowned performer and writer of the Muscogee (Creek) Nation and the author of nine books of poetry, several plays and children’s books, and a memoir, Crazy Brave. Her many honors include the Ruth Lily Prize for Lifetime Achievement from the Poetry Foundation, the Academy of American Poets Wallace Stevens Award, a PEN USA Literary Award, Lila Wallace-Reader’s Digest Fund Writers’ Award, a Rasmuson US Artist Fellowship, two NEA fellowships, and a Guggenheim Fellowship. Harjo is a chancellor of the Academy of American Poets and is a founding board member of the Native Arts and Cultures Foundation. She lives in Tulsa, Oklahoma, where she is a Tulsa Artist Fellow.

© Photo by Mara Lavitt

Margaret Gibson, current State of Connecticut Poet Laureate, is the author of 12 books of poems, all from LSU Press, most recently Not Hearing the Wood Thrush, 2018. A new book, The Glass Globe, is forthcoming in 2021.  Awards include the Lamont Selection for Long Walks in the Afternoon, her second book, 1982; the Melville Kane Award (co-winner) for Memories of the Future, (1986), and the Connecticut Book Award for One Body, 2008.  The Vigil was a Finalist for the National Book Award in Poetry in 1993.  Broken Cup was a Finalist for the 2016 Poets’ Prize, and the title poem from the book won a Pushcart Prize for that year.  “Passage,” from Not Hearing the Wood Thrush, was included in The Best American Poetry, 2017.  She has written a memoir, The Prodigal Daughter, University of Missouri Press, 2008.  Gibson is Professor Emerita, University of Connecticut.  She lives in Preston, CT.  For more information, visit her website:

As Connecticut State Poet Laureate (2029-2022) Margaret Gibson has been awarded an Academy of American Poets Grant for Poet Laureates.  The grant is intended both to support Gibson’s poetry and to allow her to fund various poetry projects from May 2020 to May 2021.  As Poet Laureate, Gibson has taken as her social focus “Poetry and the Environment during Climate Crisis” and is funding videos of Connecticut poets reading their poems about the environment in natural settings and “Green Poetry Cafes”—activities which are, during the COVID times, mostly taking place on video.  An anthology of CT poets writing about climate crisis will be published in April 2021.

Orice Jenkins is a vocalist, arranger, songwriter, and multi-instrumentalist signed to independent imprint Truth Revolution Recording Collective. After three remarkably diverse projects, his newest album, Centennial Cole, is a celebration of a great voice from the past: Nat ‘King’ Cole. Released in September of 2019, the courageous body of work has been featured in JazzizJazzWeekly, and JazzTimes magazines. Jenkins performed his own soulful arrangements of timeless tunes, similar to his work on his 2016 release, Soar, which reached #11 on the iTunes jazz chart. Jenkins became notorious for his hip-hop laden covers of jazz standards like Bye Bye Blackbird and Body & Soul, as well as his swinging treatments to songs by Drake and Rihanna.

Around The Piano, his 2014 debut, featured original orchestral soul songs written during Jenkins’ teenage years. More of his early songs were released on Tertiary, a 2017 mixtape that featured entirely self-produced music. Both projects were released several years after their inception, partially because of Jenkins pursuing higher education at prestigious arts conservatory, The Hartt School, as well as his work as a music educator in his hometown of Hartford, Connecticut. He also tours nationally with The Afro-Semitic Experience and has served as musical director and arranger for legendary soul singers Betty Harris and Kenny Hamber, as well as Grammy-award winning artist Charmagne Tripp. He has collaborated with rapper Klokwize, Grammy-nominated producer Chris Davis, and shared the stage with jazz legends such as Dr. Eddie Henderson and Stanley Jordan.

Thank you to our sponsors

Ellen Jeanne Goldfarb Memorial Charitable Trust

The Goldfarb Family

Elizabeth M. Landon & Harriette M. Landon Charitable Foundation


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