On Mother’s Day, May 9, 2010, New York poets will gather at the Flushing Friends Meeting House, Flushing, NY, to read the names of the dead buried in the Hart Island Cemetery, America’s largest public potter’s field. The cemetery on Hart Island occupies 101 acres in the Long Island Sound on the eastern edge of New York City.
More than 800,000 people are buried on Hart Island, approximately 2,000 a year. One third of them are infants and stillborn children, down from one half since children’s health insurance was extended to cover all pregnant women in New York State. Prisoners bury and disinter the dead on Hart Island.
The Hart Island Project was created to reclaim the identities of those buried on Hart Island. Volunteers have established a system to collect data from documents acquired through the Freedom of Information Act and make them available to people seeking lost relatives. To volunteer, donate, or study the archives see hartisland.net. Read about the Hart Island Project and its founder, Melinda Hunt, in the New York Times here.
Poets include Grace Beniquez, Ira Cohen, Louise Landes-Levi, Jo Anne Meekins, Louis Reyes Rivera, Ilka Scobie, Jackie Sheeler, Abraham Stubenhaus, Stacy Szymaszek, and Steve Turtell. They will read the names of people buried at Hart Island since 1980, along with commemorative poetry.