Founded in 1848, Forest Hills Cemetery is by no means the oldest cemetery in the greater Boston area, but it has become one of the most famous both for the notable persons buried here and the spectacular statuary and monuments. When I visited the memorial park on Monday, it was sunny and downright balmy for a January Boston day (nearly 40 degrees F!), but with a periodic biting wind. Overall, though, a good day for the 4th stop on our Boston Poetry Scavenger Hunt (if you are joining us for the first time, would like to know more, or would like to revisit any of the other stops: Stop 1, Stop 2, and Stop 3).
Within yards of the main gate is the powerful Death Staying the Hand of the Sculptor by Daniel Chester French, shown above. The list of the well-known who are buried here is available on both the wikipedia page and the cemetery’s map. I was here to visit two residents in particular – the poets Anne Sexton and ee cummings.
The majority of the other visitors at the cemetery while I was there was a large group of bird watchers. Another lady and I were wandering the same group of graves, and at first I thought we might be in search of the same thing, but our patterns diverged: I was looking down and reading headstones while she had binoculars and was looking up.
Naturally, I am not the first person to seek out Anne Sexton’s resting place to leave a tribute of poetry – on the Sexton family monument just a few feet from Ms. Sexton’s headstone, someone else had carefully arrayed an offering:
I set out for the other side of the cemetery to find ee cummings. After a number of wrong turns and map reading mistakes, I finally arrived in the area where he was supposed to be – and another pair of bird watchers watched as I went in circles for twenty minutes, muttering at my phone (where the downloaded cemetery map glowed uphelpfully).
I was about to give up, when I spotted the family name faintly chiseled on the back of a large block:
But there was still no sign of ee. Only a ring of purposefully placed rocks tipped me off – his headstone was completely covered in fallen leaves and back against a rock wall. EE Cummings: challenging us in life and in death.
Poet and friend Meg Eden originated the idea of a poetry scavenger hunt – her website is here and info about her new chapbook is here. The poem in the envelope I left for Anne Sexton is by Anne Caston: