Wallace Stevens may not be the most widely read poet in America, but he is probably the most-widely read poet from Hartford who was also the Vice-President of a major insurance company and also has a walk through Asylum Hill in his honor. And because of that singular distinction, two dear friends and I gathered at The Hartford Accident and Indemnity Company* Parking Lot last week to walk the Wallace Stevens Walk. Each of the thirteen stops along the way is marked by a stone inscribed with one of the thirteen inscrutable verses of “Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Blackbird”. As we walked we parsed one friend’s protracted divorce proceedings, focusing (of course) on the bizarre, and delusional behavior of her soon-to-be–ex-husband.
Our second stop (“ I was of three minds, /Like a tree/In which there are three blackbirds.”) was in front of the Asylum Hill Congregational Church and their Thrift Shop was open. This is very handy if you want to thriftily acquire items you don’t need. We went inside and B found a blue tea tin for 10¢ while M-A and I ate the free tootsie rolls on the counter.
The fifth stanza (“I do not know which to prefer/The beauty of inflections/Or the beauty of innuendoes/The blackbird whistling/Or just after.”) was engraved in a stone directly in front of the St. Francis Hospital, the birthplace of M-A. I do believe she preferred inflections.
Stuck in the ground right next to the ninth stanza (“When the blackbird flew out of sight/ It marked the edge/ Of one of many circles.”) was a bright yellow sign alerting us that PESTICIDES had just been applied. The record is eerily silent about Wallace Stevens’ opinions about pesticide use and GMO’s.
And here we are in front of Wallace Stevens’ (former) house, enjoying the suburban susurrus of blasting leaf-blowers while reading the thirteenth stanza (“It was evening all afternoon/It was snowing/ And it was going to snow./ The blackbird sat/ In the cedar-limbs.”)
*You may be pleased to know that both Robert E. Lee and Abraham Lincoln had homeowners’ insurance with The Hartford. I find that reassuring. Re-insuring.