Poetry & Place in the Hilltowns

Poetry & Place: Exploring the Hilltown Home of 19th Century Poet William Cullen Bryant

By Andrea Caluori-Rivera
MassLIFT AmeriCorps Member at Hilltown Land Trust & Kestrel Land Trust

Kindred Spirits was commissioned by the merchant-collector Jonathan Sturges as a gift for William Cullen Bryant in gratitude for the nature poet’s moving eulogy to Thomas Cole, who had died suddenly in early 1848. It shows Cole, who had been Jonathan Sturges mentor, standing in a gorge in Catskills in company of a mutual friend William Cullen Bryant. Painting is by artist Asher Brown Durand (1796–1886).

Western Massachusetts has been home to many poets and writers who were inspired by this region’s remarkable landscapes and natural settings. Since April is National Poetry Month, the spring season is a great time to explore some of the homes and writing places of local poets from the past, such as the William Cullen Bryant Homestead in Cummington, MA.

William Cullen Bryant (1794-1878) was an editor, abolitionist, conservationist and poet. He grew up in Cummington, MA and later purchased his childhood home and converted it to a country house. Known for his poems inspired by nature, Bryant was also well acquainted with prominent Hudson River School painters Thomas Cole and Asher B. Durand. The three of them used their artistic talents in painting and writing to champion the American landscape and helped to inspire the American conservation movement. You can read more about Bryant and his life here: www.poetryfoundation.org.

The William Cullen Bryant Homestead, now a property of The Trustees of Reservations, houses a wonderful collection of items from Bryant’s lifetime as well as interesting objects from later decades left by Bryant’s descendants and those that lived there. The property also boasts an old growth forest and a trail system that follows a rivulet – a water feature Bryant wrote about in 1823 in his poem The Rivulet. Read this poem and his most famous, Thanatopsis.

This spring and summer, The Trustees of Reservations have a variety of activities planned for folks at the homestead where visitors can volunteer, experience history and learn more about this interesting place and its antique objects. These events offer a variety of opportunities to engage your local community through different interests such as community service, local history, poetry, food traditions, and ecology, and hiking.  Read the rest of this entry »

Keeping Family History Alive for an Only Child

Family History

With an only child, keeping family history alive is so important. Daisy is the heir apparent to all our collective memories, so I try to take as many photos, write as many stories and letters, and tape as much video as I can. My father’s parents died shortly after I finished college, but my mother’s parents lived on into their 80s and 90s. I had grand ideas of taping my Grandpa Sidney as he talked about his life growing up in Brooklyn, or my Grandma Fudgie recalling her peripatetic childhood — her parents were both actors in the Yiddish theater. I never got around to doing it, and before I knew it my grandfather was struggling with dementia and my grandmother was battling ovarian cancer and the effects of lifelong diabetes. When my grandparents died, so did their memories and stories. I won’t make the same mistake with my own parents. I plan to interview them, and write down their stories and memories before they too become lost to the wind.

I took some of my family history, a story that has been handed down along my mother’s side, and blended it with a bit of fiction to create this tale for Daisy: Read the rest of this entry »

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