In an essay titled “With the Approach of the Oak the Axeman Quakes,” Frank Stanford wrote, “People close to me have said: I don’t understand what you are talking about, but I know what you mean.” This is how I feel about Stanford’s poetry. It is heavy, dark, full of imagery, symbolism, and talk of death, and each poem leaves me with a feeling, a sense. If you asked me, “What is that poem about?”, then I would not have a very good answer for you. But I can describe the feelings and emotions his poetry provokes in me: a longing for a simpler life, anger at injustice, the sweetness of love, and a respect for death. I discovered Frank Stanford from a NY Times review of this book. When I learned he was Southern, not part of any establishment (He barely attended college and made his living as a surveyor.), and cult like figure who killed himself at 29, I knew I had to read his work. I will let others who are more qualified dissect the poems, analyze them in order tell use what the poet was trying to say or describe his inner conflict. I will simply let beautiful lines like “Death dances a slow boogie/Even the awkward can follow/When he leads” fill me and settle into my soul. I plan on returning to his poems again and again. The one drawback to the book is it has excerpts from The Battlefield where the Moon Says I Love, but it does not include the entire work. This was the magnum opus of Stanford’s life with topics ranging from Hank Williams Sr., Sonny Liston, death, and the country life. I am on a mission to find a copy of this book.
For more about Frank Stanford read The Long Goodbye.
From Copper Canyon Press.