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  March 29, 2004

Conference To Honor Poet Wallace Stevens

Although Wallace Stevens is one of the world's most respected poets, his double life as businessman as well as poet - and the secrecy with which he conducted himself - made it difficult for even his contemporaries to know the real Wallace Stevens.

This year, the University of Connecticut hopes to change that.

From April 8 to 10, the English Department will hold a conference, Celebrating Wallace Stevens: The Poet of Poets in Connecticut. Poets and Wallace Stevens experts will come from across the nation and overseas to celebrate the life and works of the Connecticut poet.

Wallace Stevens (1879-1955), winner of the Pulitzer Prize and the National Book Award, is the greatest poet from Connecticut and one of the most influential poets of the 20th century, says Glen MacLeod, a professor of English and one of the organizers of the event. This year marks the 125th anniversary of Stevens' birth and the 50th anniversary of the publication of his Collected Poems.

"His reputation for secrecy applies to his life in Hartford," says MacLeod. "He did not want to be known as a poet in Hartford because he thought it would interfere with his life as a businessman." Stevens was an insurance executive for The Hartford insurance group from 1916 to 1955.

MacLeod describes Stevens as a man who had little patience for the "silly and pretentious art-world types" of the New York literary scene.

He adds that many people find Stevens' work difficult to understand: "Stevens uses language in unusual ways. Learning to read him is like getting to know someone with a very original, distinctive personality."

In recognition of Stevens' four decades of service, The Hartford sponsors the Wallace Stevens program, which promotes poetry at UConn and in the Hartford area with two poetry readings each spring.

This year's featured poet is Ellen Bryant Voigt. She will speak on April 7 at 1:30 p.m. at the Charter Oak Cultural Center in Hartford and on April 8 at 8 p.m. at the Konover Auditorium in Storrs.

This year, the Wallace Stevens program is part of the larger conference.

Helen Vendler, a leading poetry critic, is the keynote speaker on April 9 at 8:30 p.m. in the Rome Commons Ballroom.

Eugene Gaddis, author of Magician of the Modern and archivist for the Wadsworth Atheneum, is the featured speaker on April 10 at 8:30 p.m. at the Atheneum in Hartford.

The celebration includes panel discussions and readings on the Storrs campus, and a guided tour of the Wallace Stevens Walk in Hartford.

The conference is free to members of the University, but advance registration is required. For a detailed schedule of events, see

To register, e-mail Rebecca Devers at