Frank Stanford

Ivor Griffiths, Poet, Novelist & Short Story Writer

:: Poet Home :: Poetry :: Short Stories :: Contact ::

Frank Stanford (1948–1978) was a notable American poet. He is known for his long rural focused poems.


  • 1 Biography
    • 1.1 Early life and education
    • 1.2 Career
    • 1.3 Death
  • 2 Work
    • 2.1 Praise
    • 2.2 Distribution
  • 3 Selected bibliography
  • 4 References


Early life and education

Frank Stanford born on August 1, 1948. He was adopted the day he was born by a single woman named Dorothy Gilbert Alter (b. 1911). In 1952, Dorothy married levee engineer Alfred Franklin Stanford (1883-1963), who subsequently also adopted “Frankie” (Francis Gildart) and his younger sister, “Ruthie” (Bettina Ruth). The children attended Sherwood Elementary School in Memphis, Tennessee, then junior high in Mountain Home, Arkansas, where the family had moved in the late 1950s.

In 1964, Stanford entered Subiaco Abbey and Academy near Paris, Arkansas, a boys' prep-school run by Benedictine monks who provided a rigorous liberal arts and physical fitness curriculum. After graduating, he entered the University of Arkansas at Fayetteville in the fall of 1966, pursuing a civil engineering degree as his stepfather had done at the same institution some fifty years earlier. In January 1969, the spring semester of his sophomore year, Stanford changed his field of study to English and was allowed to enroll in the graduate poetry-writing workshop, an uncommon occurrence. However, he left the university in January 1971, never earning a degree.


Over the next several years, the poet married and divorced Linda Mencin, her father a retired Army colonel and her mother a society lady. All the while, Stanford kept writing and publishing in magazines. In 1972, Mill Mountain Press, under the editorship of Irving Broughton, published a limited edition of his first book, Singing Knives. (All of the seven manuscripts he published between 1972 and 1977 appeared as chapbooks.) The poet spent much of 1972 and 1973 traveling through the South and New England with Broughton, an independent broadcast journalist and filmmaker by profession. The two interviewed and filmed writers—-Malcolm Cowley, Kay Boyle, Richard Wilbur, Richard Hugo, George Garrett, and many others. (These interviews appear in The Writer’s Mind: Interviews with American Authors, a three-volume set published by the University of Arkansas.)

During this period, Broughton tutored Stanford in the technical aspects of camera work, and the poet developed serious interests in filmmaking. Moreover, he briefly lived in New York City, nearly shipping out as a merchant marine. The one constant in his life, writing poetry, continued unabated. Returning to Arkansas in 1973, he took a room in the New Orleans Hotel in Eureka Springs, where he wrote much of his masterwork, The Battlefield Where the Moon Says I Love You (1977), a 542 page, 20,000 line epic (383 page, 15,283 line epic in the second edition, published by Lost Roads in 2000). In the spring of 1973, he met painter Ginny Crouch, and they soon married, settling in a house near Rogers, Arkansas, on Beaver Lake. He supported himself and his second wife by working as a land surveyor in places like Eureka Springs, Arkansas, throughout much of the 1970s. During this time, he and his publisher Irving Broughton made a documentary about his work and life entitled It Wasn't a Dream It Was a Flood, which won an award. In 1975, Stanford established the independent publishing operation Lost Roads Press. He also reestablished relationships with Fayetteville writers and met C.D. Wright, a graduate student in the creative writing program. The first Lost Roads title was Wright’s Room Rented by a Single Woman, 1977.


On the evening of June 3, 1978, Stanford took his own life in Wright's home in Fayetteville. He was buried in the cemetery at Subiaco beneath a stand of yellow pines, a mile or so from the Arkansas River. Ginny Crouch Stanford, his wife at the time, has stated that on that day, Stanford confessed that he had committed adultery. They fought and Stanford retreated to his bedroom. A few moments later, she heard three gunshots: Stanford had shot himself three times in the heart.



His work has been described as surrealistic tall tales - long poems set with recurring characters in an imaginary landscape drawn from his childhood in the Ozark mountains and full of wild embellishment. He has been written about in at least two folk songs - the Indigo Girls' "Three Hits" and Lucinda Williams' "Pineola".

These biographical details give little more than the bones of a life. Contemporary poets, critics, scholars, and readers have all but forgotten this little-known American poet; his legacy has been significantly overlooked in the canonization process of anthologies and college literature courses. Stanford is one of the least known of the significant voices of American poetry in the 1960s and 70s, yet in his day he was well known in poetry circles. Indeed, his work appeared in many prominent magazines, including The New Yorker, The Chicago Review, kayak, Iowa Review, Ironwood, Field, The Massachusetts Review, The Mill Mountain Review, The Nation, The New American Review, The New York Quarterly, Esquire, American Poetry Review, and Poetry Now. Stanford also enjoyed high praise. Alan Dugan—Pulitzer Prize winner for poetry and a National Book Award recipient—called Stanford “a brilliant poet, ample in his work,” comparing him to Walt Whitman (qtd in B.C. Hall’s obituary of the poet, “Death of a Major Voice in Arkansas,” Arkansas Times, December 1978). James Wright called him “a superbly accomplished and moving poet” (Ironwood 17 105). Richard Eberhart praised the “strange grace of language” in the poet’s remarkable, unforgettable body of work” (Ironwood 17 137). Leon Stokesbury introduces the selected poems by claiming that he was, “at the time of his death, the best poet in America under the age of thirty-five” (ix). His contemporaries remarked his “perfectly tuned” ears (Thomas Lux, “‘Brother Leo Told Me the Bell Was Ringing’: On Frank Stanford,” Field 52 (1979) : 49-55), the “remarkable acuity” of his “clear-cut imagery and spring-tight lines” (Lee Upton, review of Stanford's selected poems, The Light the Dead See, in Mid-American Review 13.1-2 (1991) : 207-10), and his “remarkable talent” as a “testimony to Stanford’s place in American letters” (John Bradley, review of The Light the Dead See in Bloomsbury Review, July/August 1991: 30).


In spite of such praise, no large publishing houses had published any of his books (though Stanford submitted more than one manuscript to substantial East Coast firms). Furthermore, his posthumous books appeared in small press editions, ensuring limited production and distribution. Stanford’s Lost Roads (now under the editorship of C.D. Wright and husband Forrest Gander) published three posthumous books, and Ironwood Press printed another. In his life and for a dozen years after his death, no anthologists (of southern literature or otherwise) included examples of Stanford’s poetry. All of his titles appeared in limited, chapbook editions (about 500 copies each), and they suffered from poor distribution and promotion. He remained in Arkansas and (worse for his poetic “career”) outside academic publishing institutions (with their embrace of larger publishing houses in New York City). Stanford seems to have been forgotten, skipped over by a generation of poetry writers and readers. Most of his books are currently out-of-print. A significant exception is battlefield, which Lost Roads republished in October 2000, a corrected edition with helpfully numbered lines. This edition appears to be currently out of print

Selected bibliography

  • The Singing Knives (1971)
  • Ladies from Hell (1974)
  • Field Talk (1975)
  • Arkansas Bench Stone (1975)
  • Constant Stranger (1976)
  • Crib Death (1979)
  • You (1979)
  • The Battlefield Where the Moon Says I Love You (1977, 2000)
  • Conditions Uncertain & Likely to Pass Away (1990)
  • The Light the Dead See (1991)
  • Frank Stanford at
This article is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. It uses material from a Wikipedia article. To access the original click here.
Permission is granted to copy, distribute and/or modify this document
under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License, Version 1.2
or any later version published by the Free Software Foundation;
with no Invariant Sections, no Front-Cover Texts, and no Back-Cover Texts.
A copy of the license is included in the section entitled "GNU
Free Documentation License".