A.E. Stallings was the latest in a long line of highly respected poets to share their work as a part of the Wallace Stevens Poetry Program. The program, which is now in its 54th year, also features a poetry contest for both high school and university students.
The third and second place winners from the Early College Experience Program were high school student poets Raphael Lassauez and Joyce Hida. Mechelle Horelick took first place, and was given the opportunity to perform her poem “Checkout Aisle 3” for all those in attendance.
Assistant Professor in Residence Darcie Dennigan then announced the University of Connecticut Student winners. In third place was Jillian Cundari, who performed her poem “Vegetables.” The second place winner was graduate student Brian Sneed. Sneed read his poem “Victory at Sea.” The final student reading was by first place winner Anna Ziering, who performed her poem “Fears After the Indonesian Forest Fires.” Ziering’s poem was short but powerful, drawing inspiration from real life events.
Associate Professor of English Penelope Pelizzon excitedly and eloquently introduced the 2016 Walter Stevens Poetry Program poet, A.E. Stallings. Pelizzon praised A.E. Stallings’ work, stating “It is not possible for me to imagine twenty first century American poetry without the work of Alicia Stallings.”
A.E. Stallings then performed selected poems that spanned her literary career, starting with her poem “Song For the Women Poets.” A.E. Stallings stated that “Song For the Women Poets” and many of her other poems were heavily influenced by Greek mythology, particularly mythology surrounding the Underworld.
Fourth-semester English major Siobhan Dale found herself enjoying how A.E. Stallings drew influence from Greek mythology, particularly liking the poem “First Love: a Quiz.” “First Love: a Quiz,” which told the myth of Hades and Persephone, starting off comedic but growing dark just before the poems end.
Between each reading, Stallings would provide the audience with anecdotes from her life. She would explain how each experience shaped her poetry. It was inspiring to hear how seemingly insignificant events, like a trip to a museum or conversations with her children, inspired her award winning poetry.
Stallings, who lives in Greece, also wrote a series of poems about the refugee crisis she witnessed firsthand. The poems were upsetting and touching, and felt as real as the events they were based upon.
Stallings’ poem “Sestina: Like” drew a great reaction from the audience. Stallings noted that the sestina form of poetry was often hated among poets due to its length and pattern of repetition. Despite the universal dislike, Stallings was able to create a tight yet fluid poem that was highly complemented by her animated reading.
“I like the way that she takes traditional forms of poetry like the sestinas and sonnets, and she puts a new perspective with current issues on them,” eighth-semester marketing major Kristen Stanise, said.
The last poem A.E. Stallings read was titled “Alice, Bewildered,” and was based upon a scene from the book “Through the Looking-Glass” where Alice forgets her name. Stallings stated that she had always felt a connection to Alice because of their similarities in name, making her poem about identity loss especially poignant.
A.E. Stallings joins revered poets in reading at the Wallace Stevens Poetry Program, like Marianne Moore, Elizabeth Bishop and John Ashbury.
Lauren Brown is a staff writer for The Daily Campus. She can be reached via email at email@example.com.