BRATTLEBORO — The Brattleboro Literary Festival and Brattleboro Words Project will feature South Newfane poet William Mundell (1912–97) in a two-part program on Wednesday, Oct. 12, at Brooks Memorial Library in Brattleboro. The evening begins with a 6 p.m. roundtable discussion and continues with a 7 p.m. lecture and reading of Mundell's poetry.
This is the fourth program in the Words Project series on area authors from the past. In previous years, the Project has featured Lucy Terry Prince, Mary and Royall Tyler, and Mary Wilkins Freeman. The Oct. 12 program is a prelude to this year's Brattleboro Literary Festival, which runs from Oct. 13 to 16.
Don McLean, of Guilford, is director of the Mundell program.
McLean will moderate the 6 p.m. roundtable discussion on the life and varied career of William Mundell. Participants will include nephews Merrill Mundell, Jr. and Malcolm Mundell, and great-nephew Eric Mundell.
Also joining the panel will be Andy Burrows of Guilford, who guided the publication of Mundell's first volume of poetry, Hill Journey, by Brattleboro's Stephen Greene Press.
There will also be an exhibit of artifacts and print materials that highlight the poet's achievements as a photographer whose work was featured in Life magazine. Mundell's books are out of print, but a few copies of several volumes will be on sale at the event, benefiting the Words Project.
The evening concludes with a lecture and reading, “Hill Journey: The Poetry of William Mundell,” in which Don McLean will read many of the poet's most important pieces, with commentary. McLean is known for his annual readings of Christmas stories at Christ Church, Guilford, and for co-authoring with Christina Gibbons the play, True as Steel, using the words of Royall and Mary Tyler, which was given a Words Project performance in 2018.
William Mundell is one of Vermont's finest native-born poets. He lived his entire life in South Newfane, unusually combining his career as a poet with work as a carpenter, stone mason, and state highway foreman. He served on the Newfane Selectboard, as a town auditor, and as justice of the peace.
Mundell was also editor of Poet Lore magazine. In 1989, he was named Vermont Poet Laureate by the Poetry Society of Vermont; a previous recipient of the award was Robert Frost.
His poetry ranges from humorous anecdotal vignettes of small-town life, and portraits of town characters, to an important body of poems of great intensity, based upon his experience maintaining roads, logging and scything, working with horses, and hiking on Hunter Brook Mountain.
His poetry has been published in The New Yorker, Yankee, and in six book collections.
The Oct. 12 events are admission-free. For more information on the Brattleboro Literary Festival, visit brattleborowords.org. Also, listen to the “Brattleboro Words Trail” podcast on William Mundell at bit.ly/684-mundell.