William Halvosa's twin bed granite headstone in Barre's Hope Cemetery

History of our Journal

William Halvosa

 A founder of the poetry journal we know as The Mountain Troubadour 

If you visit Hope Cemetery in Barre, Vermont, you will discover an unusual monument—a monument composed of twin beds attached to an elaborately carved headboard. Sculpted out of Vermont granite, this memorial was designed in 1953 by William Halvosa, an early PSOV member, to express his undying devotion to his wife.

As you stand facing the monument, you will see that a bas relief decorates the headboard; it portrays two lovers holding hands. A quote from Song of Solomon, “Set me as a seal upon thy heart, for love is as strong as death,” is etched into the stone, reinforcing the theme of this unique and dramatic memorial. No wonder some visitors see this sculpture as “poetry in stone.”  (1)

But William Halvosa did not confine his creative talents to designing sculpture. A dedicated poet, he worked in ink as well as in stone. It was his interest in poetry that motivated him to create publishing possibilities for PSOV members. Working with PSOV’s founder, Mary Newton Baldwin, he transformed The Mountain Troubadour from a four page news sheet to the poetry journal we know today. 

Doing so was not easy. As Mary Baldwin explains, in 1955 “there was no medium available in the state for the publication of the verse of PSOV members.” (2) Fortunately, Halvosa worked for the Rock of Ages Corporation in Barre; it is here that the first issue of TMT was printed in 1956. Halvosa personally typed up the poems, essays, and cover pages, counted each character and each line, and took it to Rock of Ages for printing by offset. Then he–with Mary Baldwin and her husband, Gordon–spent an evening at Rock of Ages collating the pages and stapling them into the covers.

As we know, his hands-on effort was rewarded. The poetry of PSOV members has been published within the covers of The Mountain Troubadour for the last 67 years. Also, because Halvosa was regularly published in the journal, we have a collection of his writings. 

But, again, this pioneer poet is a person who defies easy categorizing. He did not publish his work under the name of William Halvosa—rather, he published under the name of Gwen Halvosa, his deceased wife. The only exception was one poem written in 1978, the issue that contains a memorial to his friend, Mary Newton Baldwin. The poem, entitled “Full Circle,” was written for “Mollie” on the occasion of “his and Mollie’s mutual birthday, June 26, 1977.” (3) And, yes, he signed it “Bill.”

Halvosa did marry again–but he seems to have remained devoted to his first wife. In fact, local legend tells of Halvosa keeping vigil at the monument in the Barre cemetery at sunset each night. (4) 

So, if you ever visit Hope Cemetery in Barre, I suggest locating the Halvosa memorial. But, even more, I suggest that as PSOV members, we can view Halvosa’s legacy through a different lens–one I would argue is as enduring as any stone memorial. For, complex and dramatic as William Halvosa was, he had the inspiration to turn The Mountain Troubadour into a poetry journal, one of our greatest assets. 

Carol Milkuhn

2/14/24

(1)  Barre Granite Heritage, p. 40

(2)  The Mountain Troubadour, Fall, 1966, p. 4

(3)  The Mountain Troubadour, 1978, p. 18

(4)   Barre Granite Heritage, p. 40

(5) Image twin bed monument Hope Cemetery, Vermonter.com

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