poem index

About this poet

Frank Stanford was born August 1, 1948, in Richton, Mississippi. In 1949, he was adopted by Dorothy Gilbert. In 1952, Gilbert married A. F. Stanford, a levee contractor, and the family moved to Arkansas. Stanford grew up in Memphis and the Ozarks of Arkansas.

In 1963, his father died, and Stanford began to attend the Benedictine Academy and Monastery in Subiaco, Arkansas. He entered the University of Arkansas in 1967, where he studied civil engineering and became involved in the Fayetteville literary community. His first poems appeared in journals such as Ironwood, Field, and American Poetry Review.

Stanford married twice. He and his first wife, Linda Mencin, lived in Fayetteville, Arkansas. In 1974 he married the painter Ginny Crouch, and they moved to Eureka Springs, Arkansas, where Stanford worked as a land surveyor. In the early '70s, he and his publisher, Irving Broughton, made a film about his life and work, It Wasn't A Dream, It Was A Flood. The film won the 1975 West Coast Film Festivals Best Experimental Film Award.

Stanford returned to Fayetteville in 1975 and lived with the poet C. D. Wright. He founded Lost Roads Publishers and continued to earn a living as a land surveyor. Between 1971 and 1977, seven volumes of his poetry were published, including The Singing Knives (1971), Ladies from Hell (1974), Field Talk (1975), Constant Stranger (1976), and The Battlefield Where the Moon Says I Love You (1977).

At the age of twenty-nine, on June 3, 1978, Frank Stanford died of self-inflicted gunshot wounds. Stanford's powerful imagination has been praised and elegized by many poets including Thomas Lux, James Dickey, and Franz Wright.

Selected Bibliography


Light the Dead See (1991)
Conditions Uncertain & Likely to Pass Away: Tales (1990)
You (1979)
Crib Death (1978)
The Singing Knives (1971)
The Battlefield Where The Moon Says I Love You (1977)
Constant Stranger (1976)
Arkansas Bench Stone (1975)
Shade (1975)
Field Talk (1974)


Freedom, Revolt, and Love

Frank Stanford, 1948 - 1973
They caught them.
They were sitting at a table in the kitchen.
It was early.
They had on bathrobes.
They were drinking coffee and smiling.
She had one of his cigarillos in her fingers.
She had her legs tucked up under her in the chair.
They saw them through the window.
She thought of them stepping out of a bath
And him wrapping cloth around her.
He thought of her walking up in a small white building,
He thought of stones settling into the ground.
Then they were gone.
Then they came in through the back.
Her cat ran out.
The house was near the road.
She didn't like the cat going out.
They stayed at the table.
The others were out of breath.
The man and the woman reached across the table.
They were afraid, they smiled.
The other poured themselves the last of the coffee.
Burning their tongues.
The man and the woman looked at them.
They didn't say anything.
The man and the woman moved closer to each other,
The round table between them.
The stove was still on and burned the empty pot.
She started to get up.
One of them shot her.
She leaned over the table like a schoolgirl doing her lessons.
She thought about being beside him, being asleep.
They took her long gray socks
Put them over the barrel of a rifle
And shot him.
He went back in his chair, holding himself.
She told him hers didn't hurt much,
Like in the fall when everything you touch
Makes a spark.
He thought about her getting up in the dark
Wrapping a quilt around herself.
And standing in the doorway.
She asked the men if they shot them again
Not to hurt their faces.
One of them lit him one of his cigarettes.
He thought what it would be like
Being children together.
He was dead before he finished it.
She asked them could she take it out of his mouth.
So it wouldn't burn his lips.
She reached over and touched his hair.
She thought about him walking through the dark singing.
She died on the table like that,
Smoke coming out of his mouth.

From The Light the Dead See: Selected Poems of Frank Stanford, edited by Leon Stokesbury. Reprinted by permission of the University of Arkansas Press. Copyright © 1991 by the Board of Trustees of the University of Arkansas. All rights reserved.

Frank Stanford, 1973

Frank Stanford

Frank Stanford was born August 1, 1948, in Richton, Mississippi.