Yesterday, Wolfie and I walked the Wallace Stevens route with our friend the Hartford film-maker Helder Mira and intern Andrew Kufta. We started at the first marker.
As we traversed the route, we asked people we saw to read stanzas from 13 Ways of Looking at a Blackbird. It's a very mixed neighborhood, and we got cooperation from people young and old, white people and people of color. A jogger stopped long enough to read the passage about moving and flying. Helder, Wolfie, Andrew and I all read. You'll also hear the voices of Asylum Hill Congregational Church music director Steve Mitchell, Hartford blogger Heather Brandon, Renbrook School student Grace Dubay and of several people whose names we never learned but who bent their heads to the page and carefully read the poet's words.
Sometimes, Stevens's legendary walks took strange social turns. Edward Diemente, University of Hartford professor emeritus, recalls a tale told by a neighbor, Arthur Polley, who worked closely with Stevens at The Hartford. "Mr. Polley expressed the greatest admiration for Mr. Stevens and respected him as an outstanding insurance executive. But in other regards, Polley thought Stevens was an eccentric. One day, Polley was driving by a bus stop and saw Stevens there. Polley stopped and asked Stevens if he would like a ride. Stevens paused for a moment and then said that he would accept if Polley did not speak during the ride. They rode the entire trip in silence."
The 16th annual Wallace Stevens Birthday Bash at the Hartford Public Library is this Saturday night (Nov. 5, 2011) at 6:30pm. Visit StevensPoetry.org for more information.
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