Posted on YouTube by cptv.
(Biographer Alison Johnson has no connection to this video.)
Wallace Stevens’s passionate love of nature was an important element in his life. In his teens and early twenties, he spent many hours roaming the countryside near his hometown of Reading, Pennsylvania. After he started working as an insurance executive in Hartford, his daily access to nature revolved around Elizabeth Park, which he utilized almost as a second yard and garden.
Elizabeth Park is a 102-acre park located on the border of Hartford and West Hartford. Its rose garden, which was established in 1904, is the oldest in the country and is one of the three largest rose gardens in America. The two apartments that Wallace and Elsie Stevens lived in for over a decade were very close to Elizabeth Park, and the house they bought in 1932 at 118 Westerly Terrace in Hartford was located only two blocks from the park. Stevens walked through the edge of the park each day on his two-mile route to and from his office. He also spent many hours in the park on weekends, finding the atmosphere conducive to thinking about poetry. Three of his poems, “Vacancy in the Park,” “Nuns Painting Water-Lilies,” and “The Plain Sense of Things,” relate to Elizabeth Park.
It seems likely that Stevens did not use the park as a place to read, however, because he stated in a journal entry when he was nineteen and already deeply interested in nature, "I wondered why people took books into the woods to read in summer-time when there was so much else to be read there that one could not find in books."
Elizabeth Park, where Wallace Stevens walked almost every day. He often took his daughter Holly skating on this large pond.
Stevens also often took his daughter Holly to Elizabeth Park, and during the winter they would skate on the pond. According to Holly, her father was a very good skater who was proficient at executing figure eights. A small bridge crossed a narrow section of this large pond, and Stevens would duck under it to skate from one part to the other. That bridge was associated with another of Holly’s memories of visiting Elizabeth Park with her father: “My father would lift me up so I could walk on the wall, holding his hand and feeling very tall, for my head was on a level with his.”