Poetry returns to Forest Hills Cemetery

Poetry-reading is returning to Forest Hills Cemetery in a new series organized by the Forest Hills Educational Trust (FHET).

It is the first poetry series to be held at Forest Hills Cemetery since FHET abruptly suspended programming in January 2011. Last year, only the Lantern Festival and a small series of walking tours were held. State funding for FHET was suspended for lack of programming.

“One can only hope that this is only the beginning of the renaissance of the great treasure that is the Educational Trust,” said Joe Bergin, spokesperson of the Carpenter Poets, one of the participating groups. “This is only a glint of the returning sunlight.”

The cemetery and FHET are separate organizations with separate boards of directors. FHET functions like a “friends” group of the cemetery, fundraising and organizing programming that the cemetery must approve. FHET is currently run by Program Coordinator Jonathan Clark.

“This [series] is Jonathan’s idea,” Bergin said. “He wanted to re-establish the poetry series [but] had to run it by the cemetery’s board [of directors].”

The cemetery board approved the series earlier this month, Bergin said.

The poetry series will feature the Jamaica Pond Poets, the Carpenter Poets, Tapestry of Voices and Simone Beaubien, the director of last year’s National Poetry Slam. The series was inspired by Boston Poet Laureate Sam Cornish.

“Boston and JP are so rich with poetry and Forsyth Chapel is such a wonderful place for it,” Clark said.

“I’m very excited about it,” Cornish told the Gazette. “I feel there is a lot of quality work being done in Massachusetts…and this series [showcases the poems] in a place that does visually what the poet does in words.”

Harris Gardner, head of Tapestry of Voices, did not answer a Gazette email. Last January, he told the Gazette, “They should keep some of their programs going while they evaluate. Having the community use the space for events really brought the cemetery to life.”

The series will take place at Forsyth Chapel on the last Sundays of January, February, March and May.

Tapestry of Voices previously organized the poetry series presented by FHET. This time, it is taking turns sharing the stage: the Carpenter Poets will read in January; the Jamaica Pond Poets will read in February; Tapestry of Voices will read in March and Beaubien and other young poets will perform in May.

“I thought it would be interesting to include other poetry groups around Boston,” Clark said.

Longtime Executive Director Cecily Miller left the organization and other staff was let go at the same time as FHET programming was suspended. The suspension of programming has never been explained.

1The FHET board created an online survey to evaluate the future of the nonprofit organization, as the Gazette reported last January.

The outcome of that evaluation was not “exactly revelatory,” Clark said. Clark was invited back to organize the Lantern Festival last spring.

“We already knew how much people valued the Trust’s events and programs. The survey simply confirmed it,” Clark said. “Other things were similarly presupposed: the Lantern Festival is our most popular event, followed by the Day of the Dead and the concerts, poetry readings, and walking tours.”

Clark has previously hinted at an upcoming “big announcement,” but confirmed that this poetry series was not it.

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