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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

Poetry

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)

The Forgotten Madmen of Ménilmontant

after Jacques Prévert

Do not look sadly at days gone by
days below days like a river running under the stars
Do not listen to the blues
or speak often with priests
Do not think the rich women enrolled in the college of nightfall
will always smell the same way

Everytime the tree works the leaves dream

Everytime I carve the dead wing my name
in the dark lamp of the outhouse
I said everytime I cut my name
in the old wood rotten as a tugboat
I know I am always with you

Everytime the schoolboy’s bad moon
dowses blood from the virgin’s stone thighs
I know I am handsome and young and drunk
eternal as a weed

It will not smell the same
Everytime I open a bottle of wine
and see a snake doctor under my bed
I know there is something coming and eternal
like taking off a white coat over the body of the dead

Poets have done this before
Poets have made love and gathered at the cheap joints
they’ve cut their fingers toasting one another’s death

Poets have made love
and remained thick
they’ve gotten cold feet at the crucial moments
when left alone with the students with sad eyes

Do not die in the wintertime
for there is no okra or sailboats

It will not smell the same
that twig of blood or the chiffonier

Do not listen to hunting dogs in autumn
or tie yellow flies for the small lips of desperate friends

Poets have done this before
and they’ve wandered off alone and unheard of
to bury the caul of their own stillborn

Like a voice the odor has changed

Dust under the hooves of a horse
running side by side with the fog
a book in the hands of a fool

Cheese and fish and spinsters
are the body of the poet
for the poet does not eat black bread
he gives it to the poor

Everytime a mare throws a foal in an exile’s country
I know I am with you
a gun in the hand of a fool

The poet forgets in remembrance of you
he is the lunatic’s left hand man
on Sundays the acolyte of the moon
he is night following other nights
the eyes of the blind
the stranger your wife leaves with
when you’re still talking with your youth
stowed away on the ship of death
and it will not smell the same

Everytime I see a young man
tuck his knife back in his vest
I want to say forget it and drink

From What About This: Collected Poems of Frank Stanford. Copyright © 2015 by Ginny Crough and C. D. Wright, Estate of Frank Stanford. Reprinted with the permission of The Permissions Company, Inc., on behalf of Copper Canyon Press.

From What About This: Collected Poems of Frank Stanford. Copyright © 2015 by Ginny Crough and C. D. Wright, Estate of Frank Stanford. Reprinted with the permission of The Permissions Company, Inc., on behalf of Copper Canyon Press.

Frank Stanford, 1973

Frank Stanford

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

by this poet

poem

after Nicanor Parra

The truth is we both attended
The same boys’ school.
Reformatory, whatever you want to call it.
You were a big dick—I know you don’t remember me,
Always stealing coins
From the collection for a Sunday matinee.

You used to confess you fucked the young

poem

after Nicanor Parra

The truth is we both attended
The same boys’ school.
Reformatory, whatever you want to call it.
You were a big dick—I know you don’t remember me,
Always stealing coins
From the collection for a Sunday matinee.

You used to

poem

Some bad whiskey
I drink by myself
just like you
when this wind
blows as it does
in the delta
where a lost hearing aid
can be taken
for a grub worm
when the black constellations
make you swim backwards
in circles of blood
stableboys ruin their hands