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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.

The writer'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 & Company, 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.

Wildflower

Stanley Plumly, 1939
Some—the ones with fish names—grow so north
they last a month, six weeks at most.
Some others, named for the fields they look like,
last longer, smaller.

And these, in particular, whether trout or corn lily,
onion or bellwort, just cut
this morning and standing open in tapwater in the kitchen,
will close with the sun.

It is June, wildflowers on the table.
They are fresh an hour ago, like sliced lemons,
with the whole day ahead of them.
They could be common mayflower lilies of the valley,

day lilies, or the clustering Canada, large, gold,
long-stemmed as pasture roses, belled out over the vase--
or maybe Solomon's seal, the petals
ranged in small toy pairs

or starry, tipped at the head like weeds.
They could be anonymous as weeds.
They are, in fact, the several names of the same thing,
lilies of the field, butter-and-eggs,

toadflax almost, the way the whites and yellows juxtapose,
and have "the look of flowers that are looked at,"
rooted as they are in water, glass, and air.
I remember the summer I picked everything,

flower and wildflower, singled them out in jars
with a name attached. And when they had dried as stubborn
as paper I put them on pages and named them again.
They were all lilies, even the hyacinth,

even the great pale flower in the hand of the dead.
I picked it, kept it in the book for years
before I knew who she was,
her face lily-white, kissed and dry and cold.

From Summer Celestial by Stanley Plumly. Copyright © 1983 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
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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