Who Was the Poet Frank Stanford?


Next week—with the release of What About This: Collected Poems of Frank Stanfordthe work of a brilliant, difficult, much-mythologized and little-known American poet will finally be widely available.

Frank Stanford’s short life was a study in contradictions: his childhood was divided between the privilege of an upper-crust Memphis family and summers deep in the Mississippi Delta; he was a backwoods outsider who maintained correspondence with poets ranging from Thomas Lux to Allen Ginsberg; and posthumously, he is both little-known and a cult figure in American letters. He was a “swamprat Rimbaud,” “one of the great voices of death,” and “sensitive, death-haunted, surreal, carnal, dirt-flecked and deeply Southern.” He shot himself in 1978, just shy of his 30th birthday. Reviewing the new collection for the New York Times, Dwight Garner wrote about the enigmatic nature of Stanford himself, as well as why his work has been so difficult to…

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“What the World Needs”

Lovely musings that remind me to step away from the news and back to myself, and to appreciate others and let in appreciation from others. So much. Thank you, Shawndra!

Shawndra Miller

I can always tell when I’m overloaded with the news; that’s when I start to despair. So much mess to clean up. It seems ridiculously tangled-up and tiresome, painful to look at.

In my own state we are attempting to disentangle from newly passed legislation designed to show my GLBT brothers and sisters that we are not welcome. Elsewhere, of course, there’s worse news. In Kenya suicide bombers caused untold anguish. In California the drought is now so severe that the governor mandated water restrictions. Then there’s the German pilot who decided to fly a planeful of people into the side of a mountain. For what?

Time to turn off NPR. When I get overwhelmed, this timeless advice from theologian Howard Thurman is a comfort:

“Don’t ask yourself what the world needs. Ask yourself what makes you come alive and then go do that. Because what the world needs is…

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Punctuating Yeats and reading writers’ minds

Sentence first

‘Yeats’s handwriting resembles a mouse’s electrocardiogram,’ writes the late Daniel Albright in his preamble to the marvellous Everyman Library edition of W. B. Yeats’ Poems, which he edited.

Albright goes on to give a similarly forthright account of the poet’s spelling and punctuation, excerpted below. While acknowledging his debt to Richard Finneran, who oversaw a different collection of Yeats’s poems, Albright parts company from him in two ways:

First, he is more respectful of Yeats’s punctuation than I. He supposes […] that Yeats’s punctuation was rhetorical rather than grammatical, an imaginative attempt to notate breath-pauses, stresses, and so forth; and that the bizarre punctuation in some of Yeats’s later poems is due to the influence of experimental modernists such as T.S. Eliot and Laura Riding. I suppose that Yeats was too ignorant of punctuation to make his deviations from standard practice significant. Although Yeats surely wished to make his…

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