Literary greats buried across New England


Jack Kerouac was the central figure of the Beat Generation of the 1950s and the author of the modern classic novel “On the Road”. His grave is in Edson Cemetery in his hometown of Lowell. According to the cemetery’s Jade Oxton, visitors of all ages make the trip every year, dropping off “alcohol, cigarettes, guitar picks, slippers to ‘warm his feet if he went out for a smoke’. ” A famous visitor was Led Zeppelin guitarist Jimmy Page, who paid tribute without fanfare; while Bob Dylan and contemporary Kerouac Allen Ginsburg arrived with a camera crew that captured the encounter in 1975.

Authors Crest in Concord

If you fancy something more pastoral, try the Authors’ Crest at Sleepy Hollow Cemetery. There lie Louisa May Alcott (“Little Women”), leading transcendentalists Ralph Waldo Emerson (“Self-Reliance”) and Henry David Thoreau (“Walden”), as well as adjacent transcendental novelist Nathaniel Hawthorne (“The Scarlet Letter”) . According to Patricia Hopkins of Sleepy Hollow Cemetery, Authors’ Ridge is, understandably, “a mecca for tourists, scholars, families, and book lovers from across the country.”

Mount Auburn Cemetery in Cambridge.Image courtesy of Mount Auburn Ceme

Mount Auburn Cemetery in Cambridge

Mount Auburn Cemetery is the bucolic final choice of an abundance of distinguished New England writers in a beautiful garden setting. It’s a lovely place to stroll and pay homage. There rests jurist and author Oliver Wendell Holmes; John Bartlett from “Bartlett’s Familiar Quotes”; activist and author Julia Ward Howe (“The Battle Hymn of the Republic”); the poets Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, John Ciardi and Robert Creeley; journalist and feminist Margaret Fuller; behavioral psychologist BF Skinner; author Frank Conroy; and a pass of literary Lowells, all poets: Amy, James Russell and Maria White. Fannie Farmer, author of her classic eponymous cookbook, is buried there, along with children’s poet David McCord and novelists Eleanor Porter (“Pollyanna”) and Jean Lee Latham (“Carry On, Mr. Bowditch”). On the tombstone of novelist and short story writer Bernard Malamud is an inscription of his own words: “Art celebrates life and gives us our measure.

Forest Hills Cemetery in the Jamaica Plain

This place is the final resting place of two well-known 20th century poets, ee cummings and Anne Sexton, as well as playwright Eugene O’Neill. Janice Stetz of the cemetery points out that visitors are often surprised to see the headstone of ee cummings, the famous lowercase poet, which simply says “EE CUMMINGS” in all caps.

Poet Emily Dickinson, circa 1850. Three Lions/Getty Images

West Cemetery in Amherst

Innovative poet Emily Dickinson is buried near the house where she spent most of her cloistered life. His grave is prominently displayed and once a year, on the anniversary of his death, a poetic walk around the town culminates at the West Cemetery. Although she wrote several well-known poems about death (including “Because I couldn’t stop for death – He kindly stopped for me -“), her headstone simply reads “Called Back “, which, according to Jane Wald, the executive director of the Emily Dickinson Museum, is a quote from the last letter Dickinson wrote before his death. If you visit West Cemetery, you can’t miss a very large, colorful mural by Cambridge artist David Fichter commemorating Amherst’s story, with Emily Dickinson in the foreground.

In New Hampshire and Vermont

Willa Cather, the important novelist of the early 20th century, was born in Virginia, grew up in Nebraska and lived most of her adult life in New York. Her work is closely identified with the Nebraska prairie, but she is buried in the old cemetery in Jaffrey, NH She lived in Jaffrey for several months of each year for decades and, according to Bruce Hill of the Jaffrey Historical Society, believed that it was there she did her best in writing. Cather’s headstone includes a beautiful quote from her most famous novel, “My Antonia”: “It’s bliss; dissolve into something whole and great.

Also in New Hampshire is Donald Hall, American Poet Laureate and award-winning man of letters. He is buried alongside his beloved second wife, poet Jane Kenyon, at Proctor Academy Cemetery in Andover, NH Their shared headstone bears a poignant line from one of Kenyon’s poems, “Afternoon at MacDowell”: prodigy will keep you close to me.

A decidedly untraditional grave in Nelson Cemetery in Nelson, NH, belongs to poet Eleanore Marie Sarton, who wrote as May Sarton. It is a sculpture of a phoenix emerging from the flames that she commissioned from her friend Barbara Barton long before her death. Of this sculpture, Sarton remarked, “it does exactly what I wanted, feels like it’s skyrocketing.”

Finally, you can pay homage to Robert Frost, four-time Pulitzer Prize winner and New England’s preeminent poet, by visiting Old Bennington Cemetery in Bennington, Vermont. The plaintive epitaph on his tombstone reads: “I had a lovers’ quarrel with the world”, taken from his poem “The Lesson for Today”.

Betsy Groban writes a reading column for Publishers Weekly Children’s Bookshelf and is the book review editor for the Jane Austen Society of North America.


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