I wanted to go over some poetry with my tenth grade students because it’s National Poetry Month and they have to take a standardized test week which features questions about types of poems, figurative language, and analysis. This is not a great reason to talk poetry with students. In fact, it’s downright shitty. I even apologized to them for this egregious error, honest.
But thinking about poetry put me in the mood to find out more. To explore. Hip myself to some stuff I’d never read before. I used to listen to Garrison Keillor’s The Writer’s Almanac on a daily basis, and at the end of each episode, Keillor would give a plug to the Poetry Foundation, and it was on their website that I discovered Frank Stanford. I won’t go into the man’s history, because Ben Ehrenreich’s essay, “The Long Goodbye” does a killer job of giving biographical information and analyzing how this helped build Stanford’s poetry.
After reading this essay I was hooked (and inspired to write some new poems); subsequently, I read some of Stanford’s poems, but it was his life that drew me in. His words are solid. Great stuff. But knowing about the life that lead to the poetry cuts deeper. Borders on myth-level status. I suppose it’s always been this way for me. Every time I find something new, whether it be literature, film, music, or poetry, I need to find out everything I can about whoever it is creating the content. Many would argue that this information is trivial. Unimportant. That the work should be taken for its own merit. To hell with that. I love stories. I love myths. I love legends. And if understanding a person’s life a little better leads me to appreciate the story even more, then I’m in.
Read Stanford’s poetry. Read Ehrenreich’s essay.