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)

Homage to Jacques Prévert

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 maid
So much, she really had to lay you,
So you wouldn’t lie to the priest anymore.
Then you spent your nights playing with your meat,
Weeping, drinking mass wine,
Listening to the queer monk’s records of the blues.

You ate chicken legs in the alley
With orphans and criminals.
You, dressed fit to kill, your cape,
Your beret, your shorts, all one dark color.
And the ragged copy of Villon in your hip pocket
Like a handkerchief to cough in.

You weren’t like the other boys,
You were like me, but I was too young and ugly for you.
You could play the cello well,
But no one ever heard you,
Not even the whores in the dives
You stole off to on free weekends.

Oh, I can read to numbskulls in the Southwest,
Make a few bucks at a cockfight with a bald-headed poet,
Watch some hillbilly cornhole a mule,
Then go back to Chile, with plenty, on a boat running guns,
But you, you can dream forever,
And still not remember who I was.

From What About This: Collected Poems of Frank Stanford. Copyright © 2015 by Ginny Crouch Stanford 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 Crouch Stanford 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 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

poem

This bed I thought was my past
Is really a monk in a garden

He’s dressed in white
Holding a gourd of water
Because I have forgotten Tangle Eye
And Dylan Thomas
The swarthy goose
And the moon in the pennyroyal
With its gut full of shiners
And the skeleton keys to my room

poem

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