Worcester County Poetry Association
Established 1971
Worcester County Poetry Association / PO Box 804, Worcester, MA 01613 / 508-797-4770 / wcpaboard@yahoo.com

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Inscribing the Stone:
Notes from Worcester's Hope Cemetery
by Angela Dorenkamp

When I first visited Hope Cemetery in Worcester, Massachusetts, to search out Elizabeth Bishop’s grave, snow covered the ground. At the cemetery office, I was given the exact location of the gravesite and learned that Bishop’s ashes had been buried on the reverse side of a monument bearing her parents’ names: William T. Bishop and Gertrude B. Bishop. On Beach Street, curving among Hope Cemetery’s gently-sloping, snow-covered lawns, I found the gravestone – a substantial piece of rectangular-cut, beveled granite. Bishop’s parents’ names and dates were carved on the side fronting the road. Anxiously, I scurried to the far side to see whether the line from “The Bight,” – “Awful but cheerful” – which Bishop had reportedly requested for her epitaph, was actually there. To my surprise, the stone was altogether blank. Perhaps, I reasoned, someone had placed an inscribed stone flat to the ground on Elizabeth’s side, but I could not test this theory because the snow was too thick and hard. When spring came, there was no flat stone.

When Laura J. Menides (WPI) and I presented a program about Bishop at the Worcester Historical Museum integrating biography, poetry, and slides, we had a slide of the family plot in Hope Cemetery and mentioned the fact that the grave was not marked and that we wanted to try to get that done.  The cemetery office told us we needed permission from Alice Muthfessel, executrix of the Bishop estate, in order to have Bishop’s name cut in the stone under which she is buried. Eventually we wrote to Ms. Methfessel, as did Elizabeth Ross Naudin, a first cousin of Bishop’s who lives in Florida, and
a few of the people who attended our presentations.  Soon, Laura Menides, Carle Johnson (Worcester County Poetry Association), and I were busy planning The Elizabeth Bishop Conference & Poetry Festival, which will be held in Worcester Massachusetts, on October 9-12, 1997. We wanted to include a tour of places in Worcester related to Bishop’s life here, including her gravesite, of course. So I sent Ms. Methfessel a copy of the permission form required by the cemetery. When I spoke with her on the phone, she was gracious and anxious to have the matter resolved. In fact, she said, she had been under the impressions that the estate’s lawyers had taken care of the inscription some time ago. Once we had the permission – and the assurance that the estate would cover the cost of the engraving – I arranged for the work to be done. The lettering matched that of Bishop’s parents’ exactly. The letters, for instance, were hand-cut rather than sand blasted. The inscription, sent to us by Alice Methfessel, reads as follows:

On a beautiful fall day – Sunday, October 6, 1996 – which happened to be the 17th anniversary of Elizabeth Bishop’s death, Laura Menides, Carle Johnson, and I made a pilgrimage to her grave. There we noted the newly cut inscription and read “The Bight” aloud. Bouyed by the nip in the air, we felt the lightness of euphoria. Thanks are due to Alice Methfessel; to Laura Menides and Carle Johnson; to Aldo Gatti, the stonecutter; to the cemetery staff; to Elizabeth Ross Naudin; to all those who supported and helped bring to closure, this small, but important. enterprise.

Previously published in The Elizabeth Bishop Bulletin, Volume 5, Number 2, Winter 1996; and The Worcester Review, Volume XVIII, Numbers 1 & 2, 1997.
Elizabeth Bishop
1911 - 1979
"All the untidy activity continues
Awful but cheerful."
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Inscribing the Stone: Notes from Worcester's Hope Cemetery
Angela Dorenkamp's account of having the Bishop marker inscribed.

Placement of the Elizabeth Bishop Marker at the site of the Bishop home
on Main Street, Worcester

Lloyd Schwartz reading at 12 Crane (Southbridge, Massachusetts) celebrating the publication of Elizabeth Bishop: Poems, Prose and Letters (Library of America)

Elizabeth Bishop Conference & Poetry Festival

Worcester County Traveling Poetry Project: Elizabeth Bishop

Birthday Party Readings & Dinner Party Readings

Documents will be added as they are located and scanned. A number of Elizabeth Bishop scholars have visited over the years, although we don't have photos of all those visits and talks. If you have a document to add to this page, please contact us at WCPA.EB100@gmail.com

Of course I may be remembering it all wrong
after, after -- how many years?

Laura Menides, Angela Dorenkamp, and Carle Johnson at the Elizabeth Bishop gravesite, Hope Cemetery, Worcester, Massachusetts, 1996.

A Hope Cemetery reading has become a WCPA biannual event, typically followed by dinner and additional readings and discussion.

Additional photos below. (And more to follow!)
Elizabeth Bishop grave marker, Hope Cemetery, Worcester, Massachusetts.Gathered at Hope Cemetery, Worcester - October 6, 2007
Monica, Lynda, Laura, Dan, Judy, John, Beth, Carle, and Angela -
in the red shoes!  October 6, 2009Dan Lewis, Laura Menides, Carle Johnson: October 2010.

Saturday, May 10, 2008 - 12 Crane/Riverrun
The 12 Crane arts complex (Southbridge) hosted WCPA and Lloyd Schwartz, editor of the new
Library of America edition of Elizabeth Bishop: Poems, Prose and Letters, for a reading & book signing. 
Local poets joined the program, reading favorite Elizabeth Bishop poetry and prose.
Gathered for a Brazilian feast in honor of Elizabeth Bishop, prepared by Laura Menides, October 6, 2006: Carle Johnson, Carol Stockmal, Laura Menides, Kathleen Spivak, Greg Stockmal, Michael Hood, Byron Menides, Dan Lewis, Michael Venditozzi, Lloyd Scwartz. (Photo by Francine D'Alessandro.)
Birthday Party & Dinner Party Readings
"...until everything was
rainbow, rainbow, rainbow!"Anne Marie Lucci & Laura MenidesAnne Marie Lucci hosts the Street Beat, here opening the Elizabeth Bishop Birthday Celebration program.Laura Menides was the first reader of the evening including poetry by, about, and inspired by Elizabeth Bishop.
Elizabeth Bishop Birthday Celebration
Street Beat - February 8, 2007
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