Wallace Stevens, one of the most significant American poets of the 20th century, lived near Elizabeth Park in Hartford, Connecticut for almost 40 years. Born in 1879, Stevens attended Harvard University in Boston, and in 1904, received a law degree from New York Law School. In 1915, Stevens moved to Connecticut, where he worked for the Hartford Accident and Indemnity Company, today known as the Hartford. He became a Vice President and lived a dual life as an insurance executive and poet, a rare combination.
In 1932, Stevens bought a home at 118 Westerly Terrace in Hartford’s West End. Never learning to drive, he walked the two-mile route every day. During these walks, he would compose poems in his head. The City of Hartford and its surroundings were a major influence in his work.
One of his favorite places in Hartford was Elizabeth Park. With over 100 acres of formal gardens, vast lawns and meadows, greenhouses, and a pond, the park provided him with a place for reflection and recreation. Stevens wrote three poems that relate to Elizabeth Park: “Vacancy in the Park,” “Nuns Painting Water-Lilies,” and “The Plain Sense of Things.”
In 1946, Stevens was elected to the National Institute of Arts and Letters, in 1950 he received the Bollinger Prize in Poetry, and in 1955 he was awarded both the Pulitzer Prize and the National Book Award. Wallace Stevens died on August 2, 1955 and is buried in Cedar Hill Cemetery in Hartford.
For more information on Wallace Stevens and his connection to Elizabeth Park, please visit this link to a biography by Alison Johnson, “Wallace Stevens: A Dual Life as Poet and Insurance Executive.”