Poetry News

Dead Poets Society of America Founder Visits 500th Poet's Grave: the Tomb of Sun Ra

By Harriet Staff

In his trusty van, "Dedgar The Poemobile," Dead Poets Society of America Founder, Walter Skold, has been traversing the country for six years, documenting the final resting places of American poets with his stuffed traveling companion, Raven. For his 500th visit, Skold chose Sun Ra's grave because he had never met a poet from Saturn before. From Alabama.com:

Six years. That's how long it has taken Walter Skold to visit the graves of 499 dead poets.

Today he visited his 500th in Birmingham's Elmwood Cemetery.

Skold, a former teacher from Freeport, Maine, is traveling the country to document the final resting places of dead poets.

As the remnants of a strong summer storm moved by, Skold knelt by the final resting place of Birmingham native Sun Ra, a legendary jazz great and poet, to sweep away errant grass and read the poet's birth name aloud.

"Herman Sonny Blount."

Joined by Birmingham artist Craig Legg, he placed Raven, his stuffed traveling companion, and Sun Ra pictures near the headstone and turned to a page in "This Planet Is Doomed: The Science Fiction Poetry of Sun Ra," and read aloud.

"But when I speak of me, it is a we..."

Legg played his harmonica softly as thunder boomed in the background and Skold continued in the light rain.

"We walk the earth together and together we will..."

In a way, the lines speak to the purpose of the latest leg of Skold's journey. He is the founder of the Dead Poets Society of America. Though his Graves of Southern Poets Grand Tour has taken him to the graves of poets like Edgar Allan Poe and Mattie Stepanek, a young poet who published five best-selling books of poetry before his death in 2004, and even the multiple resting places of poet and Confederate Brigadier General Albert Pike, he wants to call attention to African-American poets after reflecting about the recent events in Ferguson and Baltimore. [...]

Learn more about Walter Skold's journeys at Alabama.com.