The Hartford Book
By Samuel Amadon (Cleveland State University Poetry Center, 2012)
These are poems about Hartford by a poet who hasn’t lived there in a while but who captures the city brilliantly. Amadon writes equally vividly about the statutes of Bushnell Park and the drug dealers of Asylum Avenue. Most of the poems are intensely personal but they never lose their sense of place. In the third of The Hartford Book’ s three sections, the places start to not be Hartford; they are instead Pittsburgh and Cape Cod. But following on two sections of Hartford-centric poems, they are infused with the same cracked nutmeg spirit.
Section two is one long ten page poem called Vanity, Vanity. It alludes to Hartford (and New England) history and literature, building the city up while also noting the contemporary view from the streets:
It was safer for me to spend time
In bars where no one listens to
Anything I shouldn’t say
Or cares about any of my facts
Like our Old State House is the Oldest
Old State House in New England
Or that we have the First Housing Project
In the Country & they don’t mind
That we lost Insurance Capital
Of America to India or that we made up fort that by taking Most Crackheads
Per Capita away from
I break it off there because “Vanity, Vanity” is pretty much one long ten page sentence. And because any poetry fan who happens to love in Connecticut really ought to read the thing in its entirety.