Saturday, July 4, 2015

Frank Stanford

Frank Stanford [Poetry Foundation]

from Frank Stanford’s What about This: Collected Poems, ed. Michael Wiegers:

The Silence the Thicket the Sniffing

Just like that
is what she meant
when she shook her head
and snapped her thick fingers
at the same time
They call it murder some places
She held onto the brush
picking out kinks of hair
like she was daydreaming of them
The foot
of an infant who is sleeping
My dick when it’s hanging
And the lip of a mare
All like snow
no one expected
a whole field of it can
be there and gone
before you know it

from With the Approach of the Oak the Axeman Quakes

I had a year with this poem; everyday in the woods at work I would say it. I never wrote a word down until I had it right in my mind. It became what they call a floater. That's a work song, a chant. Once I thought it sounded right, and undramatic, I wrote it down without changing a word.

Men sing when they work, or at least they used to. I'm liable to talk to myself. I try to get at the taproot of poetry, of that force drawing things upward. A paradox always — even on Saturday mornings when I might be a little low-down and hungover, but clear as a bell. I talk to myself. There is a poem that goes:

Each dawn love is a captain
Without a ship.
The only instrumentation
The sad and imaginary
Sound of his voice, love with its own
Words for music, the low light
Of a fairly good star.

At the risk of sounding parabolic, I will let this go as technique. Mean and sing.

Really, I visualize the dead as well as the living. I visualize you whom I will never know. We are constant strangers. I imagine you, I stare at you when I write. And to think, you will never know, will never hear of those people I can no longer call anonymous. People close to me have said: I don't understand what you are talking about, but I know what you mean. . . .

Poetry sometimes is like going along in a big rig with no one else on the roads, no smoke, no stops by the wayside, going on with no cargo, the radio quiet, only the sound of your own voice trying to get in touch.

I really don't know if poetry can be paraphrased, set to music, or what have you. Maybe so. Many times the poem ends up down on the ground, surrounded by strangers. I believe that the metaphorical imagination can be authenticated by the cinema. I know that my wife, an artist, has "irrigated" some of her canvases with my poems.

Every two folks have their own way of loving. The poet and the poem know what they like. When a particular kind of loving is adapted, you are getting into a different and strange country.

Now when I was younger, I wrote all the time. I had time to kill. A man has to earn a living; writing has become more special to me. When the poet is young he tries to satisfy himself with many poems in one night. Later, the poet spends many a night trying to satisfy the one poem. My poetry is no longer on a journey, it has arrived at its place.

Then the poet realizes it is midnight, he is alone, and his love is with someone else. What he wanted to sing, what he wanted to mean — someone else has done it. While the poet worried what kind of nails to use, how to fasten down his love, another has hit them on the head and driven them deep.

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