Friends and relatives of the late Peggy Freydberg gathered in the Chilmark Community Center on Sunday to celebrate her life, and the launching of a new collection of her poetry. Mrs. Freydberg died in March at the age of 107, but leaves behind a legacy of friendship and inspiration memorialized in the new book, Poems from the Pond: 107 Years of Words and Wisdom; The Writings of Peggy Freydberg.

Brooke Adams, Laurie David, Tamara Sloan, Geraldine Brooks, Nancy Slonim Aronie, Kimberly Cartwright and Jorie Graham read in honor of Peggy Freydberg. — Peter Simon

At least 150 people attended the event on a cool, clear evening with leaves rustling outside in a steady breeze. Inside, a table was set up with stacks of books and a giant black and white photograph of Mrs. Freydberg, taken last year by Eli Dagostino. Three generations of Mrs. Freydberg’s family were present, including her great-granddaughter Zivah Solomon.

Laurie David, a Chilmark resident and film producer who edited the collection, told the audience that the hope had been for Mrs. Freydberg to see the book herself. She did get to see the early stages of the book, including the cover and photographs, “and she was thrilled at the prospect that her poems were on their way to reaching a wider audience,” Ms. David said.

Bound in white linen and containing poems and photographs, along with reflections by Ms. David and others, the book itself is a work of art, and a monument to a long life that touched many. The book has already sold out on Amazon.

Nancy Slonim Aronie, a local author and founder of the Chilmark Writing Workshop, was one of four women who reflected on her relationship with Mrs. Freydberg and her poetry. She recalled meeting the poet at a women’s symposium in Chilmark 17 years ago, and running into her again at Mrs. Freydberg's 100th birthday celebration at the Chilmark Library. “Again I went up to her and said, you are amazing,” she said.

But it wasn’t until three of Ms. Aronie’s good friends died in the course of a single week last year that Ms. Aronie finally took the step of calling Mrs. Freydberg and arranging a visit, along with another poet friend. They asked Mrs. Freydberg to read some of her poems, but by then macular degeneration prevented her from seeing the words. So the two guests read the poems aloud for her. Ms. Aronie recalled asking Mrs. Freydberg why she wasn’t famous, and her unabashed response: “I don’t know. I would have liked that.”

Tamara Sloan, Mrs. Freydberg's granddaughter, said the book is a memorial to Mrs. Freydberg and an inspiration for all. — Peter Simon

At a celebration that Ms. Aronie organized last year at her Chilmark studio, many people gathered with the poet for a group reading of her poems. Afterward, Mrs. Freydberg told the host: “I have wondered why I have lived to be this old and now I know why. It was to experience this day.”

Ms. David, who happened to overhear that conversation, soon contacted Ms. Aronie and shared her intention to create a new book, with the goal of helping Mrs. Freydberg reach a wider audience. All proceeds from the book will go to the Margaret Howe Freydberg Scholarship, which began last year to support Island writers.

Pulitzer Prize-winning author Geraldine Brooks, who also spoke on Sunday, recalled the first time she read Mrs. Freydberg’s poetry aloud, at a gathering hosted by Ms. David last year.

“I always judge the written word by whether you get a response on your skin from it,” she said. “And I could feel the hairs starting to stand up on the back of my neck.” She added that her current reading list includes Helen Macdonald’s new novel, H is for Hawk, about a woman who trains a goshawk. “I think that Peggy was the goshawk,” Ms. Brooks said. “Not many people reach the high crag of extreme old age, and she did, and she looked down with an unsparing eye on the necessary losses and the pain but also the love and the beauty.”

Kimberly Cartwright, founder of Om of Motion in West Tisbury, recited the poem Wait a Minute, about the value of living mindfully rather than always chasing after the next moment. She never knew Mrs. Freydberg, but felt a connection to her through her work. “When I started to practice the poem that Laurie suggested that I read, I realized that in order for me to really do this, a part of me had to be willing to be completely changed,” Ms. Cartwright said.

Peggy Freydberg began writing poetry at 90. — Mark Lovewell

Jorie Graham, a Pulitzer Prize-winning poet and a professor of poetry at Harvard University, who had not encountered Mrs. Freydberg’s work before, noted that the poet was “remarkably capable of noticing things in the natural world.” She mentioned her own long standing wish to somehow see through “transplanted eagle eyes,” which is how she imagined approaching the work. “This is the transplanted eyes of 107 years of looking,” she said.

Each woman spoke from the floor of the community center, level with the audience, which sat with hands folded, often with blissful smiles or closed eyes. Above them on the stage was an enormous glass vase filled with purple lilacs from Ms. Aronie’s garden. One of the poems that Ms. Graham read, Survival of the Fittest, describes the lilac as a light from heaven, persuading the poet “that bliss is not imaginary.”

Mrs. Freydberg published 11 books, including three collections of poetry, working often at her property overlooking Stonewall Pond in Chilmark. She was 90 when she began writing poetry, which might account for the theme of impermanence and change that runs through much of her work. The actress Brooke Adams read the poem Preparing Oneself for Dying, in which the poet strives to settle her affairs, and in the process questioning her impulse to discard a stack of journal-notebooks that hold her secrets.

Go back.
Live with my mistakes.
Leave the clutter.
After I am gone,
when those of you who loved me
walk in this room,
you will find,
to your surprise
that I’m still here.

Tamara Sloan spoke about the kindness and attention her grandmother showed to those around her. But she also pointed out that she struggled like everyone else. “She worked hard to overcome a pretty constant sense of not feeling good enough,” Ms. Sloan said. When she started writing poetry, it was with a sense that she had much more to say, but perhaps not enough to fill a book. “She really worked at trying to get the essence of her being and her place in this world,” Ms. Sloan said.

“Amazingly, this woman who questioned so much about herself gave so much to others — so much belief and encouragement and love,” Ms. Sloan said. “She made you feel like you were the most important person in the world at that time . . . She made you feel sometimes that there perhaps was more to you than even you knew about.”

“This book is a great memorial to her and a great inspiration for people anywhere,” she added. “I take a deep breath and I fill myself up with my memories of her and I feel her inspiration and her words: ‘Underneath cold winter bone the flesh of summer sleeps. Beauty is everlasting.’”

Another memorial for Ms. Freydberg, including readings from the new book, will take place July 27 at the Martha’s Vineyard Hebrew Center.