Top Local Poets In Connecticut

December 17, 2013 7:00 AM

(Photo credit: THOMAS COEX/AFP/Getty Images)

Poetry is art for the ear, but held close to the heart. When there is an occasion for great happiness or great sadness, people cannot always find the right words to celebrate or mourn with. They turn to their poets for the perfect words. Connecticut has many such gifted men and women. These poets and their poems are not only highly regarded within the state, but are recognized and honored nationally and some internationally. Connecticut is home to the poet. The following list does not designate an order that one poet is superior to another. It is an introduction to a state rich with the art of poetry. The list could go on far beyond these five highlights, but it’s a good start.

Elizabeth Alexander
New Haven, CT 06510

There are few occasions more auspicious than the inauguration of a United States President. For such an occasion, poets step up to the podium and offer words to resonate around the world. When President Barack Obama was inaugurated, poet Elizabeth Alexander presented her stirring poem to the nation, “Praise Song for the Day.” She has five books of poems published, one of which was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize. She has also been distinguished as the first ever Alphonse Fletcher, Sr. Fellowship recipient, for which her work “contributes to improving race relations in American society…” She is currently chair of the African American Studies Department at Yale University.

Dick Allen

Connecticut State Poet Laureate Dick Allen, a Trumbull resident, is currently serving the third year of his five-year term, which culminates in 2015. Distinguishing his career as poet and professor, Allen is best known for ushering “the self” away from confessional-style poetry and exploring nature and other topics. He is also known for his unique way of sculpting a poem called “Randomism.” Seven of his poetry collections have been published and his individual poems have appeared in prestigious national publications. His publication, “Present Vanishing: Poems” won the 2009 Connecticut Book Award for Poetry. Before retiring from the University of Bridgeport, Allen was the Charles A. Dana Professor of English.

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Marilyn Nelson

Marilyn Nelson served as Connecticut’s Poet Laureate from 2001 to 2006. She has received many prestigious awards including the 2012 Frost Medal, the Poetry Society of America’s most prestigious award. Recently, she was named Chancellor of The Academy of America Poets. With many books, awards and positions to her credit, including professor emerita of English at the University of Connecticut. She also founded the Soul Mountain Retreat and was granted a Fulbright Teaching Fellowship from the J.S. Guggenheim Memorial Foundation.

Bessy Reyna

To find poems that are vivacious and soul searing, one needs to turn to bi-lingual poet Bessy Reyna, Connecticut’s distinguished Hispanic poet. With numerous books and awards to her credit, Reyna has been honored with the Connecticut Center for the Book Lifetime Achievement in Service to the Literary Community Award. She has also received the Living Legend Award from Saint Joseph College and the One Woman Makes a Difference Award from the Connecticut Women’s Education and Legal Fund. She also wears the distinction of being named Latina Citizen of the Year and in 2012 was one of 10 women honored by the CT Women’s Hall of Fame.

James R. Scrimgeour

Nominated for Connecticut Poet Laureate in May 2001, James R. Scrimgeour, whose body of work includes many books, chapter books and articles, is currently working on three major projects. With his great appreciation for working “en Plaine aire” and exploring the “relationship between landscape and consciousness,” his first project is tracing the steps of Monet in a book of poems. The second ongoing project is a book of poems inspired by the landscape of Cape Ann, Massachusetts called “Ghost Town.” The third project is a series of poems about Rockport, Maine. For the past 15 years, Scrimgeour has been committed to writing a poem a week. Recently retired from Western Connecticut State University, Scrimgeour was Professor and Graduate Coordinator of the Department of Writing, Linguistics and Creative Process.

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Joanne Greco Rochman is the arts editor of The Fairfield County Review, a columnist, critic, feature story writer and English professor. Her work has appeared in The New York Times, The Republican-American and Hersam-Acorn Publications. Her work can be found at

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