The Poetry of Connecticut
Connecticut is known for its luminous contribution to the humanities: from literary giants to impressionist painters, the Nutmeg State has long provided a refuge for artistic practice and achievement. But what about those artists who dwell on the outskirts listening acutely, whose words humbly sing to the public? The poets who have called Connecticut their home contributed the song that not only echoes through its vast countryside but across the nation in timeless verse that falls upon curious ears.
While visiting Delamar, immerse yourself in Connecticut’s majestic landscape and experience the songs that those great poets penned:
Lydia Huntley Sigourney
Connecticut hath wreathed it
Where her quiet foliage waves,
Lydia Huntley Sigourney was born in Norwich in 1781 and is considered one of the most widely read American poets of her lifetime. She was known as “the sweet-singer of Hartford” and discovered success over her numerous volumes of work that engaged Native American and anti-slavery themes under a religious context.
Sigourney would later tour Europe in 1840 where she would meet Maria Edgeworth, William Wordsworth, and Thomas Carlyle. While much of her work has been forgotten, her legacy remains as one of the first successful women in a literary career that inspired countless other young women to become poets. Sigourney remains a critical backbone in introducing early American poetics to the public.
It is like a region full of intonings.
It is Hartford seen in a purple light.
While not a native nutmegger, Wallace Stevens lived the majority of his life in Hartford working as the Vice President of the Hartford Accident and Indemnity Company until his death in 1955. It was during his time in Hartford where Stevens wrote a plethora of brilliant, difficult, and beautiful poems that came to define him as one of the greatest American poets of the 20th century.
Considered his greatest poem, Stevens published Notes Toward a Supreme Fiction in 1942, a long meditation that explores the nature of poetry and perception. By the 1950s Stevens was known as a contemporary poetic giant whose work contributed to the American mythos and exerted praise from critics and artists alike.
This was a little valley all to myself
In Connecticut’s northern hills: Cornwall was there;
Warren to westward: Waramaug Lake to the south;
And the great Gehenna sufficient six-score leagues—
A poet whose work is currently experiencing a renaissance, Hyam Plutzik was born in Brooklyn and raised in Connecticut. In 1932, he graduated from Trinity College and later pursued graduate studies at Yale University where he studied literature and poetry. After his education he returned to Brooklyn but found the city life overbearing which led him to stay with some acquaintances at a farm in Kent, Connecticut.
It was Plutzik’s time in Kent that inspired the poem “Death at The Purple Rim,” a meditation on his life against the backdrop of America’s entrance in the Second World War. Plutzik’s time in Kent would establish his work as an exploration through poetry and science. Plutzik’s legacy follows within the tradition of Wallace Stevens and Theodore Roethke as a poet interested in nature, time, and memory as a young American in the 20th century.
Times out of mind, the bubble-gleam
To our charred level drew
April back. A sudden beam . . .
— Keep talking while I change into
The pattern of a stream
Bordered with rushes white on blue.
James Merrill is another great poet who called Connecticut his home when he moved to Stonington in 1955. Merrill had been awarded numerous times for his lyrical and witty poetry and is the first Poet Laureate of the State of Connecticut.
Merrill poetry is enjoyed for its playfulness and adept wordplay, discovering a more conversational tone later in his career. Merrill also established the Ingram Merrill Foundation which funded writers and artists at early points in their career, though the foundation dissolved after his death in 1996. For anyone encountering Merrill’s work for the first time, his poetry is dazzlingly dense and joyful – it is an experience worth having. You can visit Merrill’s house in Stonington which holds residencies, events, and more.
Wanting to be that place where inner
and outer meet, this morning
I’m listening to the river inside—
Margaret Gibson is a poet who resides in Preston, Connecticut, and was named poet laureate of Connecticut in 2019. Her poetry is celebrated for its meditative and observational nature that explores the duality of quietness and life – like the serene countryside of Connecticut, Gibson’s poetry navigates the richness of life found in spaces beyond the immediate gaze. Gibson is currently professor emerita at the University of Connecticut.
Discover Connecticut’s Poetry
What is it about Connecticut that nurtured the voices of these wonderful poets? Perhaps it is the emerald forests, the serene seasons, or the haven from the city, but the Nutmeg State is more than the sum of its parts. Like poetry, some things remain evasive, especially those sweetest. Immerse yourself in the same landscape that has sparked brilliance in countless before by visiting Delamar and indulge in luxurious fine dining to ineffable accommodations – you might just discover the poet in yourself!