2016 Sunken Garden Poetry Festival Features Current Poet Laureate

Courtesy of Hill-Stead Museum

Nature and creativity will coalesce again this year at the Sunken Garden Poetry Festival at the Hill-Stead Museum in Farmington. For the past 24 years, this festival has brought together some of the world’s best poets and an enthusiastic audience for five summer nights of world-class poetry and musical performances in an ethereal garden. This year’s season, which begins in late June, is sure to impress.

“The thing that makes [the festival] stand out from other events is that there really are no other events quite like it,” says Lisa Lappe, the festival’s manager. “The Sunken Garden Poetry Festival has been called the ‘Tanglewood of Poetry.’ It is a multi-sensory experience of poetry performances, fabulous food and wine, magnificent natural surroundings, eclectic musical performances and even the opportunity to get up close and personal with world-renowned poets right here in Farmington.”

The 2016 season will open on June 22 with poet Heather McHugh, author of eight volumes of poetry, including Eyeshot, and the Millman writer-in-residence at the University of Washington in Seattle; and Suzanne Parker, winner of the Sunken Garden Poetry Prize. Music will be provided by the Connecticut Americana roots band The Meadow Brothers.The festival continues July 10 with a showcase of veterans’ poetry and art. Headliner Brian Turner served in the U.S. Army for seven years, including deployments in Bosnia-Herzegovina and Iraq. Opener Doug Anderson served as a combat medic in Vietnam and musical guest Logan Vath served in the Navy. The night will also feature an art show from the Veterans Art Foundation.

Celebrated poet and poetry advocate Edward Hirsch will headline on July 20, and Clare Rossini, artist-in-residence in the English department at Trinity College in Hartford, will open. The quirky folk music duo The Lords of Liechtenstein will provide musical entertainment.

A highlight of this year’s festival will be an appearance by the country’s 21st poet laureate on Aug. 7.

“This year we welcome the current United States poet laureate, Juan Felipe Herrera,” says Lappe. “His performance on Aug. 7 will be part of a weekend celebrating Latino poetry.”

Venezuelan poet Peg Boyers will open the evening, and The Latin Heartbeat Orchestra will fill the night with traditional salsa music from the ’60s and ’70s. You won’t be able to stay in your seat.

The Sunken Garden Poetry Festival closes Aug. 17 with CT Young Poets Day. The five young winners of Hill-Stead’s Fresh Voices Poetry Competition will open for acclaimed poet, founder and executive director of the South Carolina Poetry Initiative, Kwame Dawes. This is a great opportunity to see some of Connecticut’s upcoming poetic talent. The infectious reggae beats of the Mystic Jammers will round out the night.

Poetry-writing workshops will be held with several of the poets either the day before or after their events. Visit the Hill-Stead website for specific details.

Tickets for each event cost $12 in advance or $15 at the door, and attendees under age 18 are admitted free. For the first time this year, Hill-Stead is offering discounted season tickets online. The Sunken Garden Poetry Festival is made possible by a grant from CT Humanities and support from Furniture Barn and Fox 61. Look out for social media ticket giveaways from those sponsors.

Visitors are invited to bring a lawn chair or blanket, a picnic dinner and wine. Food and wine is also available for purchase from an array of gourmet vendors at each event.

“Our guests come from near and far, from a wide range of backgrounds and interests to congregate in the Sunken Garden,” says Lappe. “It is remarkable that every season, for the past 24 years, this historic garden fills with hundreds of people gathered together to listen to poetry.”


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