If it sounds maudlin, it probably is. But John Updike at least would have been flattered by the company: poets like Sidney Lanier, Philiss Wheatley, Stephen Benet, Edgar Allan Poe, Randall Jarrell, Frank O’Hara, and James Merrill. The most recent attention comes from The Dead Poets Society of America, which has nothing to do with the Robin Williams movie and everything to do with documenting the final resting places of more than 60 American poets. Walter Skold, from Freeport, Maine, made the pilgrimage to the Plowville cemetery to find the Updike family headstone, where family members had scattered some of John’s ashes the day of the tribute at the Reading Library, April 5, 2009.
Skold’s project involves collecting videos of people reading at the gravesites of his favorite poets and posting them online, and he asked Updike Society members Joan Youngerman (a childhood friend of John’s) and board member Jack De Bellis (best known to Updike scholars for his John Updike Encyclopedia and bibliographies) to participate in a graveside tribute that De Bellis said was respectful and sincere. The event was covered for the Reading Eagle by Bruce R. Posten, whose story, “Grave Pursuit: Man taking cross-country trek to document burial sites of U.S. poets stops by John Updike’s family plot in Plowville,” was posted on July 10, 2009. Posten had earlier written the story, “Updike’s children spread his ashes in Robeson Township.” According to Skold’s website, he’s done “43 Poets in Twenty-One Days!”