NEW HAVEN, CT | 31 MARCH 2009
Real and unreal are two in one: New Haven
Before and after one arrives...
From an Ordinary Evening in New Haven, by Wallace Stevens
New Haven, the “Elm City,” is located between Boston and New York. Donald Hall was born here and inaugural poet Elizabeth Alexander teaches here. It is home city to the annual International Festival of Arts and Ideas, and also home to Southern Connecticut State University’s new MFA program.
The run-down industrial city immortalized by Wallace Stevens in 1949 began its revitalization in 1954. Once it started setting money aside in the municipal budget for public arts it began to attract artists. The artists made an impact.
Location sold us on our first home. Its proximity to New Haven made it easy to ignore the vast emptiness downtown. We listened as others pointed out the good “bones,” of the hundred-year old home we were considering, and hoped our unease over the lack of diversity we encountered would pass. Diversity and culture, after all, were a short drive away.
Of course the house consumed us, the work to make it habitable took much longer and more energy than we could have anticipated. We almost never went to New Haven when we first moved here.
Museums, theater, music, art galleries, independent bookstores, and literary readings are the pulse of New Haven. Bibliophiles will enjoy the Bienecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library and Arethusa Book Shop. For those who prefer to snack while they read there is the Atticus Bookstore Café.
It was architecture that finally drew me to New Haven. The grandeur of neo-Gothic Yale University and the Beaux-Arts design of Union Station. I found myself enchanted by the city’s Victorian homes and granite churches.
Five Mile Point’s Lighthouse Park brought me back often because we had moved inland and I missed Long Island Sound. Seven years later my eyes are still drawn to the towering, red basalt of West Rock when I pass it on my way in and out of the city.
I had lived in Connecticut for 11 years, but it was not until I moved to New Haven County that I felt like I lived in New England.
New Haven offers many poetry venues. There is an open mic night at Café 9, and several reading series’ that regularly feature emerging and established poets. Among them are SCSU’s Visiting Writers’ Series, ALL Gallery’s Word of Mouth, Ordinary Evening, the Yale Reading Series, and the Yale Bookstore.
That poetry would bring me to New Haven and how often poetry would provide cause to return was a surprise. A number of poets stop in New Haven for readings and conferences. Some I catch up with over dinner or brunch, and some we entertain in our – now habitable – home. The city also provides fertile ground for new friendships.
An online listing of all things poetry can be found at the Connecticut Poetry Newsletter. The New Haven Advocate, the alternative weekly, also lists local literary events. Literary journals based here include The Yale Review, and The New Haven Review.
It turns out that our house did have good “bones.” The area is more diverse than our first impression led us to believe, and while we were busy renovating our own Main Street began to revitalize. This spring we will attend New Haven’s Cherry Blossom Festival. This summer we hope to listen to live music on the Green. We still have more to discover in New Haven and for me that will always be its allure.
Some of the fine poets I selected to appear in this issue live in the city of New Haven and others are from the Greater New Haven area. Poets in this issue include those whose work I have long admired, those whose work came recommended, and those that I luckily stumbled upon. Collectively they share a location. Individually each has a place in the diverse, vital spectrum that is contemporary poetry. It is my pleasure to introduce you.
SUZANNE FRISCHKORN is the author of Lit Windowpane, (MSRP, 2008) and five chapbooks, most recently American Flamingo, (2008) Spring Tide (2005) and Red Paper Flower (2004). Her poems have appeared, or are forthcoming in Ecotone, Indiana Review, Salt Flats Annual, Verse Daily, and the anthology Conversation Pieces: Poems That Talk to Other Poems, part of the Everyman's Library Pocket Poet Series (Knopf, 2007). She is the recipient of the Aldrich Poetry Award and an Artist Fellowship from the Connecticut Commission on Culture & Tourism.