Frank Stanford

» June 19th, 2019

Note: I’m writing a biography of the poet Frank Stanford. Ask most any poet about Stanford and you’ll get a reaction. Ask anyone else and you’ll get a blank stare. Thus my attraction to Stanford, not to mention that his poems are brilliant. This excerpt is from Stanford’s poem, The Battlefield Where the Moon Says I Love You. 


you must have a brain like a dill pickle Sylvester I said

here you is one my best and favorite blood brothers and you is crazy

nah its your book learning that’s done gone bad he said


I love these lines because it reminds me that the smartest people I know have no degrees and the biggest idiots I know have names followed by a half dozen credential-designating letters. As I writer I sometimes feel that I have spent my career trying to undo the damage that was inflicted on me in my 20s, as a young man learning to think and write in . . .  graduate school. The bad habits, the jargon, the over-educated cliches, the insufferable smugness–they take a lifetime to undo. I’m not so sure my book learnin’  has done gone bad,  as I think it has helped me think. But it’s very easy for the way the overeducated express themselves–fueled by our ridiculous insularity and assuredness– to create a verbal prison the we can spend a lifetime trying to escape.

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