Catalogue


Holding our own : the selected poems of Ann Stanford /
edited by Maxine Scates & David Trinidad.
imprint
Port Townsend, Wash. : Copper Canyon Press, c2001.
description
viii, 190 p. ; 25 cm.
ISBN
1556591586 (alk. paper)
format(s)
Book
Holdings
Subjects
More Details
imprint
Port Townsend, Wash. : Copper Canyon Press, c2001.
isbn
1556591586 (alk. paper)
catalogue key
4474357
A Look Inside
First Chapter


Chapter One

"Of heat and orchards

and sweet springing places"

"I took a walk up the hill and around a bit this evening.... It is not as good as a real county walk, but rather interesting, with the houses built right at the edge of the street, and close together, almost like a big apartment house and in between, the chaparral still grows--sumac trees, and sage, with its lavender orbs now in bloom, and a few sunflowers. Things smell good and woodsy. And on the high part of the hill, I could look down and see the fog coming in, coming across the street, and drifting up over the embankments." So wrote Ann Stanford in a 1954 journal entry as she located herself in a scene very Californian, for the hill she described was not part of the miscellany of just any landscape but rather a hill in Los Angeles, whose environs have so often suggested a place of both fecundity and loss, a place where the unnatural imposes itself on the natural with sometimes disastrous results--and indeed, Ann Stanford was a poet whose poetry was both grounded in place and haunted by its erosion.

    I first read Ann Stanford's poetry in the form of The Weathercock and The Descent when I was about to be her student at California State University, Northridge, then San Fernando Valley State College, in 1970. When I turn to these poems now, I understand once again how they are always with me, as the lines come back to me, familiar, the bedrock of my consciousness. These were poems which welcomed admission to and ultimately defined a world of poetry that I then desired yet knew nothing about. And though it is the work, rather than the teacher, I am about to introduce, I have to note that at age twenty the two were inseparable for me and this, I think, is not an unimportant point. I remember how hungry I was to write, to be heard, to be a poet, whatever that meant, but I was also wordless, intimidated by the teachers, all male, I had thus far encountered. I needed a woman teacher and I had found one, which, in and of itself, was still a rarity at that time in the California schools. And so, a student who had only recently gained reentry to school after having flunked out, I bought the books of the woman poet whose classes I could not yet get into. I wanted to know what poetry held for me, and the point that seems crucial to make is that I would not have found out had poetry not been made real for me by the quiet yet direct presence of that woman who stood in front of the class.

    These were the interests I brought to her work. I had found a poet who I believed would teach me, and now I needed to find the idea of poetry in her work. Though I was an English major, I was still a neophyte reader of poetry, but now I had the books in my hands. It was the spring of Cambodia, of Kent State, of Jackson State, and early in May I was a follower in the halls, in the administration building, a participant in demonstrations that eventually shut the school down. I had a job in Wyoming that summer, fleeing the rage that I had encountered both in the halls and in myself, and I took The Weathercock and The Descent with me--hence the encounter with both books now seems simultaneous.

    I read The Weathercock and The Descent over and over that summer. At first I was drawn to their clear-sightedness, a lucidity which then and now seems to be straightforwardly radiant. "The earnest part / Of heat and orchards and sweet springing places. / Here I am printed with the earth / Always and always the earth ground into the fingers"--how I loved and love those lines from "The Blackberry Thicket." Through them I think I first understood narrative, the catalytic moment-story of the poem that both names and gives rise to feeling. Moreover, in this poem I found the heart of many of Stanford's thematic concerns. The book jacket of The Weathercock called her a "California poet," and those orchards then and now tell me of the longing for shade, those "sweet springing places" from which her poetry comes.

    So it was not only the fact of the teacher, but also the fact of the place that would come to matter for me. Though when I knew her she lived at the top of Benedict Canyon in a house she and her husband had built (where in my senior year, much to my awe, she conducted a poetry workshop consisting of a group of us she had specially selected), she had been raised in the country south of Los Angeles which had more recently given way to the inevitable sprawl of post-World War II housing tracts. These lines from "Done With" (from The Descent ) speak to and reclaim that breathing and not so distant past:

They are trampling the garden--

My mother's lilac, my father's grapevine,

The freesias, the jonquils, the grasses.

Hot asphalt goes down

Over the torn stems, and hardens.

What will they do in springtime

Those bulbs and stems groping upward

That drown in earth under the paving,

Thick with sap, pale in the dark

As they try the unrolling of green.

May they double themselves

Pushing together up to the sunlight,

May they break through the seal stretched above them

Open and flower and cry we are living.

    In such lines I recognized something that I knew, but could not yet articulate. I had grown up in one of those housing tracts laid over a beanfield a mile from L.A. International Airport, a landscape of placelessness. But in her work I heard the echo of something that was still in the wind, voices whispering, something I had been told, a layering of sound that spoke of more natural landscapes beyond the jets and sprawling freeways as in the last lines of "The White Horse": " Where is the white horse, I said, / She was here yesterday ." These landscapes, that "yesterday," had existed in my mother's memory as well, for she was Stanford's age. And though my mother had not grown up in the country but in downtown Los Angeles, she had taken car rides to the country with her grandparents and told me of those Sundays when her grandmother picked wild mustard for the birds. I had rarely seen that countryside myself since one had to go farther and farther to find it, but I was now hearing my mother's stories of that lost countryside in Stanford's work. As well, I think these poems suggested to me that it was possible to name what one had barely heard, what one might only suspect--and, of course, as I see now in a most wonderful way they also corroborated my mother's memories, validating them as one woman, across the boundaries of class and education, gave another woman's story back. Thus, these poems coincided with my own desire to recall memories that had seemed groundless, perhaps by the very nature of that unreferenced placelessness, and certainly because, though I may have felt the desire, I had not seen how to make anything of my own or my mother's story, stories that had seemed filled with only loss.

    What I was coming to understand about poetry's ability to name came precisely from the fact that these voices, so much a part of her work, did echo and mutter over a lost landscape with something more than hazy nostalgia. Diamond-edged, poems such as "Pandora" embodied not only loss but the admission that erosion and the ensuing exile brought on by change was heartbreakingly inevitable. And if at first I had been drawn by the clarity with which she created the natural world, if not the historical, where the Spanish place-names I mispronounced spoke of yet another history I had not learned in school, I was soon drawn to the nature of the poet's exile from that world, most specifically in the ways her poetry embodied that exile in relation to the making of poetry in the last lines from "The Walnuts":

There the grove, hanging forever real in the air.

And I an exile, knowing every turn

And turning home, and lost in the dazzled road

The strange, swept premises, and the great trees gone.

Stanford was teaching me a difficult lesson, perhaps the most important lesson I would learn from her work, though surely not one I could have articulated then.

    For in these poems there was not just loss, or vulnerability in the face of the erosion of place, there was also the resistant nature of the poem "hanging forever real in the air." Not only did this exile reclaim what was seemingly lost by naming that natural world, she constructed a new world, a metaphysical landscape with the same lucidity--and, as we see in the following lines from "The Organization of Space," in that construct lies the sustaining possibility of the poem:

And yet a vacancy, an almost none,

An arching of the mind into a sky

Under which empty fields and barrens lie,

A round of almost gone, a black and sere,

Returns across the vivid local tiers

And turns them to a round, unshaded sea.

Spirit or being, corn-god or harvester,

That sets us deep within the year's concern,

Hold the circumference in which we turn.

    Reading these poems, I could begin to see not only that what was might be remade, but that even if the perimeters of the natural world seemed to collapse there could be something beyond that collapse. There was the possibility of the poem maintaining something essential of that world, a remaking which occurred as the poet created a "circumference in which we turn" that, in turn, formed the integrity of the poem's landscape as she inhabited both the vista and "the almost none" and made both here .

    It was the "almost none" that was hardest for me to comprehend, and, of course, it was the astonishing clarity with which it was depicted that made that dawning comprehension at all possible in the first place. I suspect the comprehension of what "almost none" truly meant came much later, possibly because it suggested a kind of evenhandedness that seemed to deny the possibility of joyfulness when I was looking for joy in poetry, a joy which I imagined in easy answers rather than existential acknowledgment. But even then in that evenhandedness I think I was beginning to understand that poetry was not a defense but a making. Constructed out of both past and present, Stanford's poetry acknowledges what was , what is "till vacantness is lost."

    This sense dominates In Mediterranean Air , the last of her books from Viking, while further articulating the vulnerability of the home space where change seems to loom as an ominous intruder on the horizon, where, as she writes in these lines from "Prophet": "Ravens flew by sometimes. Small groups of men / he shouted to, came, bringing others. / Clearly the world couldn't go on like this." It is exactly her ability to address both the inevitability of change and the world lost to it, the locus of place and erosion of place, which further defines the sense that the world would go on exactly like this: "And I keep thinking of the balance of things / and how we might change should they settle among us" (from "The Four Horsemen"). Indeed, it is "the balance of things" that becomes an abiding concern as, like the prophet, she continues to suggest we must make what we can of the world.

    She reinvents that notion in her last collection, Dreaming the Garden , which is dominated by the title sequence where the idea of the garden and whatever dreams we have for it are central. In this sequence she explores the ways in which we would tame the natural world by selecting elements from it that in turn form the merely symbolic; yet the ornamental, she suggests, does not account for either natural or unnatural disasters that do take place. Here her poetry of inevitable exile from the garden takes its final and luminous shape as the attempted garden is reclaimed by the natural world. In part nine, "Deserted Garden," she reminds us that "This garden needs you" and we, by turn, need it. But which garden do we need? She answers at the conclusion of the sequence:

You are the garden. Let it circle around you.

You are the heart of the maze, where the laurel

draws its own pyramid, shakes out its limbs

overhangs the path and takes the form of trees.

    I take her to mean that the garden that survives is one in which we tend the necessary, rather than smothering it with artifice. And, for me, this is the essence, the living, breathing beauty of Ann Stanford's poetry--its prismatic and dazzling clarity.

    It's been thirty years since I first read Ann's poetry, since I was first drawn into the current her poems named. How lucky I was to have these poems, this teacher, and then friend, whose generosity and encouragement changed my life. How pleased I am that these poems are again in print so that others may learn from them as I did. When I think of her I recall the unassuming directness that characterized her relation to her work and to her students. I recall how she once warned me against expecting too much from poetry, though, of course, I could not take that warning seriously precisely because her work had already promised so much. She taught me that it was possible to take what was without within in order to make it flow congruently from the inner being that is poetry. In "such centering" I understood the possibility of the poem becoming the site of incontrovertible sustenance even as it depicted the fleeting nature of what it sustains: "Transparent, then, and gone like water / Floating off, yet here...." And finally, forever in her debt, I understood the nature of that first moment when we are beyond ourselves, joined to that joyful pursuit of voices just beyond what we can hear.

Maxine Scates

Excerpted from Holding Our Own by . Copyright © 2001 by Rosanna Norton. Excerpted by permission. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.

Full Text Reviews
Appeared in Publishers Weekly on 2001-05-21:
Burgeoning orchards, bougainvillea, pomegranate, jasmine the California-born and -educated Stanford (1916-1987) drew heavily on her native flora for her tough-minded meditations, written for "beauty, harmony, joy, utopia" and championed by the likes of May Swenson. After her death, Stanford's work fell almost entirely out of print (the posthumous Dreaming the Garden is still available), which situation this collection attempts to rectify. Edited by two of Stanford's former students, David Trinidad (Plasticville; Powerless; etc.) and Maxine Scates, this labor-of-love is rightly heavy on the four later volumes of lyric poems for which Stanford was best known. Stanford was "discovered" by Yvor Winters as a Stanford undergrad and pulled into his anti-modernist circle; her early poems bear that imprint most strongly in their stentorian air and rhymes. But in her impressive final two volumes (In Mediterranean Air and Dreaming the Garden), the increasingly self-conscious poet overlays her beloved California landscape with that of the Mediterranean, melding modern memory with Renaissance epic and classical myth, meditating on the troubled space of the lyric (her ever-threatened garden), whose isolation is violated again and again. The power of these later poems with their pained contemplations, scarred remembrances and unanswered questions lies in the power of the maker to imagine worlds, however idealized: "Say/ the flowers on that hillside/ are stars/ or waves/ or tents or ribbons/ or bursts of sun// say they're light/ or courage/ or remembrance." (June) Forecast: While West Coast name recognition and sales should be strongest, fans of Amy Clampitt or Elizabeth Bishop there and elsewhere will find Standford's similar settings and sensibility congenial, if recommended to them as such. (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved
Reviews
This item was reviewed in:
Publishers Weekly, May 2001
Booklist, June 2001
To find out how to look for other reviews, please see our guides to finding book reviews in the Sciences or Social Sciences and Humanities.
Summaries
Main Description
A posthumous selected poems from one of America's most influential women poets.
Main Description
Within a decade of her death in 1987, each of Ann Stanford's ten books had slipped out of print and her final manuscript-completed just before she died-remained unpublished. Through the effort of two former students, this creeping silence will finally end with the publication of this major selected poems. Like her fellow Californians Robinson Jeffers and Gary Snyder, Stanford's poems are consumed by natural landscape and lost nature. Yet she is an urban poet, a poet of Los Angeles who published poetry, criticism, a translation of The Bhagavad Gita, and the first major anthology of women's poetry. Listening to Color Now that blue has had its say has told its winds, wall, sick sky even, I can listen to white sweet poison flowers hedge autumn under a sky white at the edges like faded paper. My message keeps turning to yellow where few leaves set up first fires over branches tips of flames only, nothing here finished yet. "All she knows, though it's awesome, doesn't clog her spontaneity or impede the freshness of her senses. The whole book is brave and good."-May Swenson "Crystalline would be the word for the illuminating clarity of Ann Stanford's poetry-except that hers is not an inorganic but a living crystal. Few poets today better exemplify the criteria of wholeness, harmony, and radiance that the great philosopher said all art should possess. Hers is an intimate but luminous vitality."-Kenneth Rexroth "She is one of our best lyricists."-James Dickey Ann Stanford (1916-1987) lived her whole life in Southern California. With degrees from Stanford and U.C.L.A., she taught at California State University for twenty-five years. Her books were published by Viking and the influential Swallow Press, and her poems appeared regularly in The New Yorker, Atlantic Monthly, and many other magazines. Holding Our Own A summer without passion our selves pulled together like the leaves surrounding the branches each branch part of the tree the tree round, holding its own in the air. The music begins round globes of sound weld it togethe
Main Description
Within a decade of her death in 1987, each of Ann Stanford's ten books had slipped out of print and her final manuscript - completed just before she died - remained unpublished. Through the effort of two former students, this creeping silence will finally end with the publication of this major selected poems. Like her fellow Californians Robinson Jeffers and Gary Snyder, Stanford's poems are consumed by natural landscape and lost nature. Yet she is an urban poet, a poet of Los Angeleswho published poetry, criticism, a translation of The Bhagavad Gita , and the first major anthology of women's poetry. Listening to Color Now that blue has had its say has told its winds, wall, sick sky even, I can listen to white sweet poison flowers hedge autumn under a sky white at the edges like faded paper. My message keeps turning to yellow where few leaves set up first fires over branches tips of flames only, nothing here finished yet. "All she knows, though it's awesome, doesn't clog her spontaneity or impede the freshness of her senses. The whole book is brave and good." - May Swenson "Crystalline would be the word for the illuminating clarity of Ann Stanford's poetry - except that hers is not an inorganic but a living crystal. Few poets today better exemplify the criteria of wholeness, harmony, and radiance that the great philosopher said all art should possess. Hers is an intimate but luminous vitality." - Kenneth Rexroth "She is one of our best lyricists." - James Dickey Ann Stanford (1916-1987) lived her whole life in Southern California. With degrees from Stanford and U.C.L.A., she taught at California State University for twenty-five years. Her books were published by Viking and the influential Swallow Press, and her poems appeared regularly in The New Yorker, Atlantic Monthly, and many other magazines. Holding Our Own A summer without passion our selves pulled together like the leaves surrounding the branches each branch part of the tree the tree round, holding its own in the air. The music begins round globes of sound weld it togethe
Main Description
Within a decade of her death in 1987, each of Ann Stanford's ten books had slipped out of print and her final manuscript-completed just before she died-remained unpublished. Through the effort of two former students, this creeping silence will finally end with the publication of this major selected poems. Like her fellow Californians Robinson Jeffers and Gary Snyder, Stanford's poems are consumed by natural landscape and lost nature. Yet she is an urban poet, a poet of Los Angeleswho published poetry, criticism, a translation of The Bhagavad Gita , and the first major anthology of women's poetry. Listening to Color Now that blue has had its say has told its winds, wall, sick sky even, I can listen to white sweet poison flowers hedge autumn under a sky white at the edges like faded paper. My message keeps turning to yellow where few leaves set up first fires over branches tips of flames only, nothing here finished yet. "All she knows, though it's awesome, doesn't clog her spontaneity or impede the freshness of her senses. The whole book is brave and good."-May Swenson "Crystalline would be the word for the illuminating clarity of Ann Stanford's poetry-except that hers is not an inorganic but a living crystal. Few poets today better exemplify the criteria of wholeness, harmony, and radiance that the great philosopher said all art should possess. Hers is an intimate but luminous vitality."-Kenneth Rexroth "She is one of our best lyricists."-James Dickey Ann Stanford (1916-1987) lived her whole life in Southern California. With degrees from Stanford and U.C.L.A., she taught at California State University for twenty-five years. Her books were published by Viking and the influential Swallow Press, and her poems appeared regularly in The New Yorker, Atlantic Monthly, and many other magazines. Holding Our Own A summer without passion our selves pulled together like the leaves surrounding the branches each branch part of the tree the tree round, holding its own in the air. The music begins round globes of sound weld it togethe
Main Description
Within a decade of her death in 1987, each of Ann Stanford's ten books had slipped out of print and her final manuscript-completed just before she died-remained unpublished. Through the effort of two former students, this creeping silence will finally end with the publication of this major selected poems. Like her fellow Californians Robinson Jeffers and Gary Snyder, Stanford's poems are consumed by natural landscape and lost nature. Yet she is an urban poet, a poet of Los Angeles who published poetry, criticism, a translation of The Bhagavad Gita , and the first major anthology of women's poetry. Listening to Color Now that blue has had its say has told its winds, wall, sick sky even, I can listen to white sweet poison flowers hedge autumn under a sky white at the edges like faded paper. My message keeps turning to yellow where few leaves set up first fires over branches tips of flames only, nothing here finished yet. "All she knows, though it's awesome, doesn't clog her spontaneity or impede the freshness of her senses. The whole book is brave and good."-May Swenson "Crystalline would be the word for the illuminating clarity of Ann Stanford's poetry-except that hers is not an inorganic but a living crystal. Few poets today better exemplify the criteria of wholeness, harmony, and radiance that the great philosopher said all art should possess. Hers is an intimate but luminous vitality."-Kenneth Rexroth "She is one of our best lyricists."-James Dickey Ann Stanford (1916-1987) lived her whole life in Southern California. With degrees from Stanford and U.C.L.A., she taught at California State University for twenty-five years. Her books were published by Viking and the influential Swallow Press, and her poems appeared regularly in The New Yorker, Atlantic Monthly, and many other magazines. Holding Our Own A summer without passion our selves pulled together like the leaves surrounding the branches each branch part of the tree the tree round, holding its own in the air. The music begins round globes of sound weld it togethe
Unpaid Annotation
Poetry. Within a decade of her death, each of Ann Stanford's books had slipped out of print, and her final manuscript -- completed just before she died -- remained unpublished. Through the effort of two former students, poets Maxine Scates and David Trinidad, this creeping silence has finally ended. Stanford's poems are grounded in place and haunted by its erosion. She has the amazing ability to absorb the temporal and recast it, via her classical imagination, into more indelible, often mythic forms.
Table of Contents
"Of heat and orchards and sweet springing places"p. 3
Holding Her Ownp. 11
from The Weathercock/1996
The Blackberry Thicketp. 23
The Ridersp. 24
Union Stationp. 26
Small Gardenp. 27
The Messengerp. 28
Above the Earthp. 29
Pandorap. 30
The Protestantp. 32
The Skyrocketp. 34
The Sleeping Princessp. 35
Metamorphosisp. 36
The Weathercockp. 37
The White Horsep. 39
Hidden Thingsp. 41
The Walnutsp. 44
from The Descent/1970
By the Woods, Readingp. 47
Double Mirrorp. 48
Memorialp. 49
In the Black Forestp. 50
The Fathersp. 51
Done Withp. 52
The Given Childp. 53
Letter from Portugalp. 56
The Floodp. 58
Night Rainp. 60
The Beatingp. 61
On the Wayp. 62
The Committeep. 64
from An American Gallery
Dolly Hazlewood, Untitledp. 66
Philip Evergood, American Tragedyp. 67
Edward Hicks, The Peaceable Kingdomp. 69
On the Death of the Presidentp. 72
The Speed of Planesp. 74
The Descentp. 75
In the Huskp. 77
The Organization of Spacep. 78
In the Lenten Seasonp. 80
The Late Visitorp. 81
The Giftp. 82
Morningp. 83
Mirrorp. 84
A Birthdayp. 85
Night of Soulsp. 86
Numbersp. 87
Going Awayp. 88
To Her Spirit at the Winter Solsticep. 89
Weedsp. 90
from In Mediterranean Air/1997
Glimmerglassp. 93
Dreaming of Foxesp. 94
I Thought Back andp. 95
One Aprilp. 96
Our Townp. 97
Librariesp. 98
Prophetp. 100
The Four Horsemenp. 101
Mr. Dp. 103
Heat Wavep. 104
Holding Our Ownp. 105
The Women of Perseus
Danaep. 108
The Graeaep. 113
Medusap. 114
Andromedap. 116
Perseusp. 117
Despite All Thatp. 121
Watching the Break-Upp. 122
Down, Downp. 124
Unwinding the Glacierp. 125
In Mediterranean Air
At the Villap. 128
The Pursuerp. 129
In the Gardenp. 131
The Chasep. 132
On the Trainp. 133
Incognitop. 134
Headquartersp. 135
Threep. 136
Outsidep. 137
The Partyp. 138
The Designp. 139
After Exilep. 142
The Turnp. 143
Listening to Colorp. 144
from Dreaming the Garden/2000
Returning Once Morep. 147
Waiting for Rainp. 148
Mountain Poemsp. 149
Childhoodp. 152
Dreaming the Garden
Dreaming the Gardenp. 154
The Fountainp. 170
Mindp. 171
Makers
The Swordp. 174
The Weaverp. 175
The Bellp. 177
At the Vernal Equinoxp. 179
The Old Couplep. 180
Goat Dancerp. 184
Crisisp. 185
The Woman on the Islandp. 186
365 Poemsp. 187
About the Authorp. 189
About the Editorsp. 190
Table of Contents provided by Syndetics. All Rights Reserved.

This information is provided by a service that aggregates data from review sources and other sources that are often consulted by libraries, and readers. The University does not edit this information and merely includes it as a convenience for users. It does not warrant that reviews are accurate. As with any review users should approach reviews critically and where deemed necessary should consult multiple review sources. Any concerns or questions about particular reviews should be directed to the reviewer and/or publisher.

  link to old catalogue

Report a problem