BELFAST – Kate Barnes has crossed the field, a field full of horses and dogs, sunlight and singing. Kate passed away Monday, June 10, 2013, at Harbor Hill, Belfast. Kate was born April 19, 1932, in Hingham, Mass., to parents Henry Beston and Elizabeth Coatsworth.
Six weeks later she came to Maine on the train, in a basket, wreathed with flowers, to spend the summer at the Bestons’ Chimney Farm, in Nobleboro. Growing up she spent her summers in Maine and attended Derby School, Hingham, Mass. She graduated from Emma Willard School, Troy, N.Y., and then from Scripps College, Claremont, Calif. While Kate was attending Scripps College her parents sent her $30 a month for clothing and extras, which Kate instead used to rent a horse and spent every free moment riding horses and exploring the countryside. She said of that time, “it was a drunkenness of such joy as I had never known…I just ate that landscape up. I couldn’t get enough.” The friendships that she made in college, in California and later in Maine continued in strength and richness throughout her life. In 1953 Kate married Richard G. Barnes and their life in California was filled with children, horses, dogs and poetry. In 1955, at the age of 23, Kate had her first poem published in the New Yorker magazine. Her life in poetry blossomed, with poems published in many magazines and anthologies, and four books of poems published, two by the publisher David Godine. She was a well-loved reader and teacher, and after returning to Maine in the early 1980s she was named Maine’s first official Poet Laureate. She was also a gifted artist, a serious scholar of literature, a maker of beautiful handmade books, and a serious student of song. Kate spent the last 30 years of her life living at her farm on Appleton Ridge, Appleton, where she had a commercial blueberry operation with her friend, Karl Guenzel.
Kate was predeceased by her parents; and sister, Margaret. She is survived by her daughters, Elizabeth and Isabella; son, Harold; son, Henry and wife, Shawn; and a number of cousins, nephews and nieces, including her much loved niece, Mally Strong, and a wide circle of friends. She was greatly aided in her last days by her devoted friends, Elizabeth Tibbetts and Eleanor Mattern. In a conversation with her goddaughter, Katy Hertel, a week before her passing, Kate said, “I want to stay very quiet and let the future bloom inside me.” She will continue to bloom inside all who knew her.
Memorial events are being planned and dates and locations will be announced. Kate’s letters, papers and manuscripts are being collected at the Maine Women Writers Collection, University of New England, Portland. In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to the land trusts who will protect Kate’s farmlands for the future, Damariscotta Lake Watershed Association, P.O. Box 3, Jefferson, ME 04348, and Georges River Land Trust, 8 North Main St., Rockland, ME. 04841. Arrangements under the care of Riposta Funeral Home, 182 Waldo Ave., Belfast. Online condolences may be offered at www.ripostafh.com.