Sharing Frost's Environment
Carling Berkhout '19 is the 2019 Robert Frost Stone House Museum Kilpatrick Fellow.
Carling Berkhout ’19 is no stranger to the Robert Frost Stone House Museum. As a child growing up in nearby Dorset, VT, Berkhout recalls visiting the museum as part of an elementary school field trip.
Over a decade after her first visit, Berkhout has returned to the Frost House once again, this time as the museum’s Kilpatrick Fellow. Through November 1, 2019, Berkhout will assist Erin Mckenny, the recently appointed director of the Stone House, with its programming, marketing, and day-to-day operations.
Under the stewardship of Bennington College, the Stone House further strengthens the College’s connection with the greater Bennington region. Its location on Route 7A, said Berkhout, “makes it easily accessible and provides an opportunity to draw communities together.”
I like meeting people who aren’t from the area but are stopping here on their way through. They’ll tell me about their relationship to Robert Frost [...] and they walk away having been changed in some way.
Carling Berkhout '19
“We want to create events that are academically appealing to Bennington students but are also of interest to the local community,” said Berkhout. “That could mean bringing farmers in to talk about new farming methods, hosting concerts that families can enjoy, or encouraging local students to visit.”
On July 27, Berkhout will showcase her own musical abilities as she takes the stage at the Stone House with her longtime collaborator, William Seeders Mosheim. Together, they form the folk duo Carling & Will, blending traditional music with contemporary melodic instrumentation.
“Will and I formed as a duo in 2016, during my freshman year,” said Berkhout. “We released an EP the following year and have played regularly since.”
Carling & Will’s forthcoming album will be released at the end of the year, and they are also scheduled to play this summer at Green Mountain Bluegrass & Roots Festival, which brings both national and local bands together for a weekend of music in Manchester, VT.
Berkhout developed as a musician while a student at Bennington, even though her studies were primarily focused elsewhere, in Creative Writing and Literature.
“I kept my music life largely separate from my Bennington life, though I did have one-on-one tutorials to develop my work with John Kirk,” said Berkhout.
During her time at Bennington, she also formed the band Surplus Daughters with Amayi Anders ’21 and Magdalen Wulf. During Berkhout’s last Field Work Term, the group recorded their self-titled debut album and toured across the Northeast, playing shows in Vermont, New York, Connecticut, and Massachusetts. Surplus Daughters will next be featured at campfire. festival on September 2 in Cambridge, MA.
In the meantime, Berkhout is diving into her new position at the Stone House, a large part of which involves interacting with visitors.
“It’s not uncommon for me to get in at 9:45 am and greet people who are already waiting to get into the house,” said Berkhout. “Many visitors are curious and have some obscure questions about Robert Frost, which at first was overwhelming to me, but it’s been a learning process.”
Visitors are drawn to the Stone House from across the country. Some pop in on a whim, intrigued after driving by and eager to learn more about Frost. Others make a pilgrimage to the Stone House as part of a broader Robert Frost tour, stopping en route to his gravesite next to Bennington’s Old First Church.
“I’ve met a lot of interesting people,” said Berkhout. “One visitor told me about his experience teaching English in China, how he taught Frost’s poems to his students. Another woman told me that Frost came to visit her class in grade school, during the 1950s. At the time, she had no idea who he was, but since then, she’s memorized his most famous poems, and she recited them back to me.”
Berkhout discusses Frost with the visitors, but their conversations also run deeper, covering life stories and travel plans, as well as questions about her music and time at Bennington College.
“I like meeting people who aren’t from the area but are stopping here on their way through,” said Berkhout. “They’ll tell me about their relationship to Robert Frost—or sometimes they don’t have one at all, and they walk away having been changed in some way. It’s interesting to get these little snippets of other people’s lives.”
Though Berkhout anticipated this fellowship would draw her deeper into his poetry and writing, she has increasingly become intrigued by Frost himself.
“I feel like I’m getting closer to understanding who Robert Frost was as a person,” said Berkhout. “I’ve been watching videos of him speak. He’s really funny, which I didn’t know coming into this.”
For Berkhout, the people and the place are the best parts of the job.
“I haven't been to other locations that are connected to Frost, but from what I've heard from those who have, the Stone House gives a unique chance to interact with Frost’s home, property, and surrounding land,” said Berkhout. “Other places may feature more of his furniture or keep the place exactly as he left it, but the Stone House lets you share the space he once occupied. It’s about enjoying that location and environment.”
By Natalie Redmond, Associate Writer