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About this poet

Stanley Plumly was born in Barnesville, Ohio, in 1939. Plumly graduated from Wilmington College in 1962, and received his MA from Ohio University in 1968, where he also did course work toward a PhD.

Plumly's father, who died at the age of fifty-six of a heart attack brought on by his chronic alcoholism, dominates the poet's work: "I can hardly think of a poem I've written that at some point in its history did not implicate, or figure, my father" (Iowa Review, Fall 1973). His mother also figures prominently as the silent, helpless witness of her husband's self-destruction.

Plumly's books of poetry include Orphan Hours: Poems (W. W. Norton, 2013); Old Heart (W. W. Norton, 2007); The Marriage in the Trees (Ecco Press, 1997); Boy on the Step (1989); Summer Celestial (1983); Out-of-the-Body Travel (1977), which won the William Carlos Williams Award and was nominated for the National Book Critics Circle Award; Giraffe (1973); In the Outer Dark (1970), which won the Delmore Schwartz Memorial Award. He is also the author of the nonfiction books Posthumous Keats: A Personal Biography (W. W. Norton, 2008); Argument & Song: Sources & Silences in Poetry (Other Press, 2003).

He edited the Ohio Review from 1970 to 1975 and the Iowa Review from 1976 to 1978. He has taught at numerous institutions including Louisiana State University, Ohio University, Princeton, Columbia, and the Universities of Iowa, Michigan, and Houston, as well as at the Bread Loaf Writers' Conference in 1978 and 1979.

His honors include a Guggenheim Fellowship, an Ingram-Merrill Foundation Fellowship, and a National Endowment for the Arts grant.

He is a professor of English at the University of Maryland, College Park. Currently, he is Maryland's poet laureate.

Horse in the Cage

Stanley Plumly, 1939
Its face, as long as an arm, looks down & down.
Then the iron gate sound of the cage swings shut
above the bed, a bell as big as the room: quarter-
moon of the head, its nose, its whole lean body
pressed against its cell . . .
I watched my father hit a horse in the face once.
It had come down to feed across the fence.
My father, this stranger, wanted to ride.
Perhaps he only wanted to talk. Anyway,
he hit the ground and something broke.
As a child I never understood how an animal
could sleep standing. In my dream the horse
rocks in a cage too small, so the cage swings.
I still wake up dreaming, in front of a long face.
That day I hugged the ground hard.
Who knows if my heartbroken father was meant
to last longer than his last good drunk.
They say it's like being kicked by a horse.
You go down, your knees hug up.
You go suddenly wide awake, and the gate shuts.

From Out-of-the-Body Travel by Stanley Plumly. Copyright © 1974, 1975, 1976 by Stanley Plumly. Reprinted by permission of The Ecco Press.

From Out-of-the-Body Travel by Stanley Plumly. Copyright © 1974, 1975, 1976 by Stanley Plumly. Reprinted by permission of The Ecco Press.

Stanley Plumly

Stanley Plumly

The author of numerous collections of poetry, Stanley Plumly's book Out-of-the-Body Travel received the William Carlos Williams Award and was nominated for the National Book Critics Circle Award.

by this poet

poem
They fly up in front of you so suddenly,
tossed, like gravel, by the handful,
kicked like snow or dead leaves into life.
Or if it's spring they break back and forth
like schools of fish silver at the surface,
like the swifts I saw in the hundreds
over the red tile roofs of Assisi—
they made shadows, they changed
poem
 
1
And then he would lift this finest
of furniture to his big left shoulder
and tuck it in and draw the bow
so carefully as to make the music

almost visible on the air. And play
and play until a whole roomful of the sad
relatives mourned. They knew this was
drawing of blood
poem
On the Canadian side, we're standing far enough away
the Falls look like photography, the roar a radio.

In the real rain, so vertical it fuses with the air,
the boat below us is starting for the caves.

Everyone on deck is dressed in black, braced for weather
and crossing against the current of the river.

They