poem index

Death, Be Not Proud: The Graves of Poets

Year

2014
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In Spoon River Anthology, a collection of monologues from the dead in an Illinois graveyard, Edgar Lee Masters combines free verse, epitaph, realism, and cynicism to give living voice to characters who can no longer speak. Though the Spoon River of the title is the name of an actual river in Illinois, the fictional town combines Lewistown, where Masters grew up, and Petersburg, where his grandparents lived—and where the poet is now buried in Oakland Cemetery. His epitaph includes his poem, "To-morrow is My Birthday" from Toward the Gulf (1918):

Good friends, let’s to the fields…
After a little walk and by your pardon,
I think I’ll sleep, there is no sweeter thing.
Nor fate more blessed than to sleep.

I am a dream out of a blessed sleep—
Let’s walk, and hear the lark.

On first read, the choice may seem an unfit memorial for a poet who famously chose to let his characters speak rather than leaving them to rest in peace. Though a person may express their wishes after death, the decisions about how to celebrate their life are left to friends and family. Some poets' graves are more spectacular or elaborate than that poet may have chosen for himself. For example, the poet D. H. Lawrence’s remains were cremated, then his ashes were mixed in with cement to build an altar on a ranch in New Mexico.

Many others seem less substantial a final resting place than what the poets' work has earned. Sylvia Plath’s grave in Yorkshire, England, is relatively unkempt, despite the tulips often left for her. Enthusiasts of E. E. Cummings have little more than a ground marker to visit when paying their respects, in miniature next to his wife's Clarke family stone.

For those who visit gravesites of poets they admire, however, it is not about the grandeur of the spot, but about communing with the individuals. More often than not, a grave may seem a perfect fit for a poet: Ralph Waldo Emerson’s plot in Sleepy Hollow Cemetery in Concord, Massachusetts, is marked by a large, naturally jagged boulder; Walt Whitman’s tomb in Harleigh Cemetery in Camden, New Jersey, is grand yet rustic, lush with foliage and solitary—yet colorful, with American flags left by visitors.

William Carlos Williams’s grave is spare and straightforward. Langston Hughes’s remains were cremated, and the ashes were buried under the floorboards of the Schomburg Library of African American Culture in Harlem, under a plaque of one of his poems. Longtime civil rights advocate Dorothy Parker’s ashes were scattered in a memorial garden created in her name at the NAACP headquarters in Baltimore, Maryland.

Because gravesites of famous individuals often become destinations for fans and tourists, it may be easy to forget that living family and friends also visit the spot to honor their deceased loved one—the person, not the icon. When poet Jane Kenyon died from leukemia in 1995, her body was taken to Proctor Cemetery in Andover, New Hampshire; a gravestone marks the place where her widower, former U.S. Poet Laureate Donald Hall, will someday join her beneath a headstone that already bears his name.

Browse Poets' Gravesites by State

California

 

Charles Bukowski

 

          Green Hills
          Memorial Park

 

          Rancho Palos
          Verdes

 

Robinson Jeffers

 

          Cremated; ashes
          scattered at his
          home

 

          Carmel

 

Kenneth Rexroth

 

          Santa Barbara
          Cemetery

 

          Santa
          Barbara

Colorado

 

Edward Dorn

 

          Green Mountain
          Cemetery

 

          Boulder

 

Mina Loy

 

          Aspen Grove
          Cemetery

 

          Aspen

Connecticut

 

Stephen Vincent Benét

 

          Evergreen
          Cemetery

 

          Stonington

 

James Merrill

 

          Evergreen
          Cemetery

 

          Stonington

 

Wallace Stevens

 

          Cedar Hill
          Cemetery

 

          Hartford

Florida

 

Reginald Shepherd

 

          Cremated; ashes
          currently at his
          home

 

          Pensacola

Georgia

 

Conrad Aiken

 

          Bonaventure
          Cemetery

 

          Savannah

Illinois

 

Gwendolyn Brooks

 

          Lincoln
          Cemetery

 

          Worth

 

Edgar Lee Masters

 

          Oakland
          Cemetery

 

          Petersburg

 

Carl Sandburg

 

          Carl Sandburg
          Park

 

          Galesburg

 

Shel Silverstein

 

          Westlawn
          Cemetery

 

          Chicago

Iowa

 

Donald Justice

 

          Oakland
          Cemetery


          Iowa City
Maine

 

Edwin Arlington Robinson

 

          Oak Grave
          Cemetery

 

          Gardiner

Maryland

 

Dorothy Parker

 

          Cremated; ashes
          scattered at the
          Dorothy Parker
          memorial
          garden, NAACP
          headquarters

 

          Baltimore

 

Edgar Allan Poe

 

          Westminster
          Cemetery

 

          Baltimore

Massachusetts

 

Elizabeth Bishop

 

          Hope
          Cemetery

 

          Worcester

 

Anne Bradstreet

 

          Burying Point
          Cemetery

 

          Salem

 

Robert Creeley

 

          Mount Auburn
          Cemetery

 

          Cambridge

 

E. E. Cummings

 

          Forest Hills
          Cemetery

 

          Boston

 

Emily Dickinson

 

           West Cemetery

 

          Amherst

 

Ralph Waldo Emerson

 

          Sleepy Hollow
          Cemetery

 

          Concord

 

Jack Kerouac

 

          Edson
          Cemetery

 

          Lowell

 

Stanley Kunitz

 

          Provincetown
          Town Cemetery

 

          Provincetown

 

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

 

          Mount Auburn
          Cemetery

 

          Cambridge

 

Amy Lowell

 

          Mount Auburn
          Cemetery

 

          Cambridge

 

Archibald MacLeish

 

          Pine Grove
          Cemetery

 

          Shelburne Falls

 

Charles Olson

 

          Beechbrook
          Cemetery

 

          Gloucester

 

Anne Sexton

 

          Forest Hills
          Cemetery

 

          Boston

 

Henry David Thoreau

 

          Sleepy Hollow
          Cemetery

 

          Concord

 

John Updike

 

          Cremated; ashes
          scattered

 

          Beverly Farms

 

Phillis Wheatley

 

          Copps Hill
          Burying Ground

 

          Boston

 

John Greenleaf Whittier

 

          Union
          Cemetery

 

          Amesbury

Michigan

 

Edgar Guest

 

          Woodlawn
          Cemetery

 

          Detroit

 

Theodore Roethke

 

          Oakwood
          Cemetery

 

          Saginaw

Minnesota

 

John Berryman

 

          Resurrection
          Cemetery

 

          Mendota Heights

Missouri

 

Sara Teasdale

 

          Bellefontaine
          Cemetery

 

          Saint Louis

New Hampshire

 

Richard Eberhart

 

          Dartmouth
          College Cemetery

 

          Hanover

 

Jane Kenyon

 

          Proctor
          Cemetery

 

          Andover

 

Robert Lowell

 

          Stark Cemetery

 

          Dunbarton

 

Ogden Nash

 

          East Side
          Cemetery

 

          North Hampton

 

May Sarton

 

          Nelson Cemetery

 

          Nelson

New Jersey

 

Stephen Crane

 

          Evergreen
          Cemetery

 

          Hillside

 

Allen Ginsberg

 

          B'Nai Israel
          Cemetery

 

          Newark

 

Jackson Mac Low

 

          Cedar Park
          Cemetery

 

          Oradell

 

Delmore Schwartz

 

          Cedar Park
          Cemetery

 

          Emerson

 

Walt Whitman

 

          Harleigh
          Cemetery

 

          Camden

 

William Carlos Williams

 

          Hillside
          Cemetery

 

          Lyndhurst

New Mexico

 

D.H. Lawrence

 

          Kiowa
          Ranch

 

          San Cristobal

New York

 

James Agee

 

          Agee Family
          Farm

 

          Hillsdale

 

Ted Berrigan

 

          Calverton
          National Cemetery

 

          Calverton

 

Louise Bogan

 

          Cremated;
          ashes scattered

 

          Greenwich Village

 

William Cullen Bryant

 

          Roslyn
          Cemetery

 

          Roslyn

 

Adelaide Crapsey

 

          Mount Hope
          Cemetery


          Rochester

 

Countee Cullen

 

          Woodlawn
          Cemetery

 

          Bronx

 

Anthony Hecht

 

          Bard College

 

          Annandale

 

Langston Hughes

 

          Cremated; ashes
          buried in the
          Schomburg Library
          of African American
          Culture, Harlem

 

          New York

 

 

James Weldon Johnson

 

          Green-Wood
          Cemetery

 

          Brooklyn

 

Emma Lazarus

 

          Beth Olom
          Cemetery

 

         Queens

 

Claude McKay

 

          Calvary
          Cemetery

 

          Woodside

 

Edna St. Vincent Millay

 

          Steepletop
          Cemetery

 

          Austerlitz

 

Frank O'Hara

 

          Green River
          Cemetery

 

          East Hampton

North Carolina

 

Randall Jarrell

 

          New Garden
          Friends Cemetery

 

          Greensboro

Ohio

 

Paul Laurence Dunbar

 

          Woodland
          Cemetery and
          Arboretum

 

          Dayton

 

John Crowe
Ransom

 

          Kenyon College
          Cemetery

 

          Gambier

Pennsylvania

 

William Meredith

 

          West Laurel
          Hill Cemetery

 

          Bala Cynwood

 

Marianne Moore

 

          Evergreen
          Cemetery

 

         Gettysburg

 

H. D.

 

          Nisky Hill
          Cemetery

 

          Bethlehem

 

August Wilson

 

          Greenwood
          Cemetery

 

          Sharpsburg

South Carolina

 

James Dickey

 

          All Saints
          Episcopal Church
          Cemetery

 

          Pawleys Island

Tennessee

 

Arna Bontemps

 

          Greenwood
          Cemetery

 

          Nashville

 

Allen Tate

 

          Sewanee
          Cemetery

 

          Sewanee

Vermont

 

Robert Frost

 

          Old Bennington
          Cemetery

 

          Bennington

 

Robert Penn
Warren

 

          Willis
          Cemetery

 

          Stratton

U.S. Virgin Islands

 

Audre Lorde

 

          Cremated; ashes
          scattered at sea

 

          St. Croix,
          U.S. Virgin Islands

Washington

 

Raymond Carver

 

          Ocean View
          Cemetery


          Port Angeles

 

Denise Levertov

 

          Lake View
          Cemetery

 

           Seattle

Wisconsin

 

Lorine Niedecker

 

          Union
          Cemetery

 

          Sumner

Americans Abroad

 

W. H. Auden

 

          Kirchstetten
          Churchyard

 

          Kirchstetten,
          Niederösterreich, Austria

 

Joseph Brodsky

 

          Cimitero di
          San Michele

 

          Venice, Italy

 

Gregory Corso

 

          Campo Cestio
          Cemetery

 

          Rome, Italy

 

T. S. Eliot

 

          Parish Church
          of St. Michael

 

          East Coker, Somerset, England

 

Ted Hughes

 

          Cremated; ashes
          scattered

 

          Dartmoor, Devon, England

 

Sylvia Plath

 

          St.Thomas'
          Churchyard

 

          Heptonstall,
          West Yorkshire, England

 

Federica Garcia Lorca

 

          Mass grave
          in Viznar; at the
          foot of the
          Sierra Nevada

 

          Granada, Spain

 

Ezra Pound

 

          San Michele
          Cemetery

 

          San Giorgio Maggiore,
          Venice, Italy

 

Gertrude Stein

 

          Cimetière du
          Père Lachaise

 

           Paris, France

 

Dylan Thomas

 

          St. Martin's
          Church

 

          Laugharne, Dyfed, Wales

 

William Wordsworth

 

          St. Oswald's
          Churchyard

 

          Grasmere, Cumbria, England