Thursday, April 29, 2010

A Day to Honor Dead Poets

Walter Skold, amateur poet and the Founder of the Dead Poets Society of America, has a new mission — to create a Dead Poets Remembrance Day. The former teacher would like to see it celebrated on October 7, the day of Edgar Allan Poe's death in 1849.

The Maine resident started his new project with a poetry reading on Friday, April 23, 2010, beginning a 22-state tour of the graves of dead poets. His "Dead Poets Grand Tour 2010" kicked off on what is believed to be the anniversary of William Shakespeare's birth in 1564. The launching point, Portland's Eastern Cemetery, is the burial place of British and American sea captains cited in Henry Wadsworth Longfellow's poem "My Lost Youth."

As in his 2009 tour of dead poets' graves, Skold will drive a cargo van, dubbed the Poemobile, to the graveyards. He has enlisted 13 current and former state poets laureate to help drum up support. This year, he will also be accompanied by a couple from Georgia who will film the journey for a documentary.
Tennessee's poet laureate, Margaret Vaughn, noted that April is National Poetry Month. She said it would be nice to have a day set aside to honor poets, as well.

"When people write speeches, it's poets that they quote most of the time," she said. "I think to take one day to really recognize them would be great."
Since founding the Dead Poets Society of America in 2008, Skold and others have documented the final resting places of hundreds of poets. He currently has a list of the graves of more than 600 American poets.

To generate interest in documenting poets' graves, a photo and video contest will offer $4,000 in prize money. Read the rules of the contest to find out how to enter.

The Dead Poets Society of America's name was partly inspired by the 1989 Robin Williams movie "Dead Poets Society," about an nonconformist English teacher who inspires his boarding school students to love poetry. The society's motto is: "We Dig Dead Poets ... You Dig?"

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