Tag Archives: The South

Searching for Poet Frank Stanford

Marie Rousselot / EyeEm

In many cases, dying young grants many artists a type of sainthood, forever shrouding them in mystery, and protecting their profile from the inevitable creative and stylistic ravages of age. Some famous examples are Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin, Jim Belushi, Kurt Cobain, and poet Frank Stanford.

For the Poetry Foundation, writer Ben Ehrenreich sifts through Stanford’s papers at Yale, gives his work a close read and travels to Arkansas where Stanford grew up and eventually met his end in 1978. Best known for the 500-page poetic magnum opus The Battlefield Where the Moon Says I Love You, unanswered questions still swirl around the young poet, questions about what parts of his mythology were self-made or true. Called “a swamprat Rimbaud,” Stanford had a strong relationship with death, both on and off the page, and the pages he left behind continue to inspire and tantalize readers, as new generations discover his dense, singular, ethereal work.

Death is everywhere in Stanford’s poetry, and it often drives a Cadillac. It’s there—he’s there, I should say—in the first lines of The Battlefield, which begins with the funeral of young Francis’ nanny: “well that black Cadillac drove right up to your front door / and the chauffeur was death / he knocked on the screen he said come on woman let’s take a ride.”

In much of the work Stanford published in the mid-1970s—presumably written in the poet’s early and mid-20s, around the time he bid academia goodbye—death took center stage. As time passed, death gradually pushed everything else to the sidelines, everything but love, which grew more pained and brittle as the years went by. Stanford’s “biggest love affair,” C.D. Wright told me with a tired smile, “was with death.” And he was not a man known for being stingy with love.

Read the story

Drinking Chai to Savannah: Reflections on Identity, Inclusion and Power in the South

Illustration by Kjell Reigstad

Anjali Enjeti | Longreads | January 2017 | 10 minutes (2,425 words)

 

I am sitting in the middle seat of the third row of a minivan. A heap of purses crowd my feet. Elbows and knees jab my sides. We are gridlocked on I-285 during Atlanta evening rush hour in a crawl-pause rhythm, our progress as tedious as arranging the frames of a stop motion animation film. The nose of our van points southeast to Savannah, the historic coastal town Union Army General Sherman spared during the Civil War. When raindrops the size of nickels smack our windshield, the hazard lights on surrounding vehicles blink on like garlands of bulbs on a Christmas tree.

“Hey,” my friend in the second row calls, craning her neck to make eye contact. “Do you want chai?”

I lean forward. The seatbelt catches my breastbone. “You want to make a stop already? We’ll never get there at this rate.”

“No, no,” says the driver, my neighbor from up the street. “We brought a thermos. And cups.”

I am incredulous, not only because my friends thought to pack chai on a four-hour road trip, but because, judging by the way the rest of my friends continue their chatter, I am the only person who finds it odd.

It’s no wonder. Among our seven passengers, six have immigrated to the U.S. from South Asia. They sip chai from morning to night. Percolating pots of fresh ginger, full fat milk and cardamom serve as background music in their homes.

I am the only one of us born and raised in the States, the only one who considers bagged tea to be actual tea, the one who stubbornly refuses to wear saris to celebrate South Asian holidays, the clueless audience for conversations rattled off in Hindi, a language I don’t understand.

I am the interpreter of academic monograms like S.A.T. and A.P., the friend who suggests they not worry so much about their kids’ grades or test scores, the beloved Aunty who sticks up for their children whenever a parental rule interferes with their enjoyment of authentically American childhoods.

Steam from the chai forms a layer of film on my face. I inhale its aroma, hopeful it will ease the dull ache in my gut, the sinking feeling my friends probably can’t decipher because they grew up in countries where their brown skin and names did not summarily mark them as outsiders. Not even these ladies, my closest friends, know that I harbor a deep-seated fear of small American cities and towns.

Like the one we’re headed to. Read more…

On Food, Family, and Love: A Recipe For Memory

68. Fried Chicken by jon oropeza. CCBY SA 2.0

Atlanta chef and culinary teacher Tim Patridge says there is a difference between reunion and funeral chicken. Reunion chicken, he explains, is fried fast and hot, in a hurry to get to the park and the party. It has a crust that is consequently crisper than the more tender crust of funeral chicken. Funeral chicken is fried slowly. Reluctant for the day to progress, the cook takes her time, turning the burner lower, braising as well as frying. As she stands at the stove, turning the pieces, raising and lowering the heat, she is lost in the act of remembering the person who has gone before. That memory, Tim suggests, may also flavor funeral chicken.

At Oxford American, Ronni Lundy reflects on the simple shared pleasures of food and on how recipes become maps through memory.

Read the story