Little Rock, Arkansas: . Two page Autograph Letter Signed on an 8.5 x 11" lined sheet. Densely composed in pencil, on the recto is a letter that is an intimate and revealing look into Stanford's time at the state mental institution -- and it provides first-hand detail that lays to rest the debate about how and why he was there. On the verso, a long handwritten poem "Restlessness by DHL [D.H. Lawrence]" from the only book he had with him in the mental ward.
In 1972, after his breakout publication The Singing Knives and shortly after the collapse of his first marriage, Stanford agreed "to have himself committed to the state mental hospital in Little Rock" (Ehrenreich). Those who surrounded him at the time had differing accounts of how and why he made this choice. While his soon-to-be ex wife "remembers Stanford being in a bad way," his mentor and favorite teacher Father Nicholas Fuhrmann "drove Stanford to and from the hospital" and reported that the poet "did it just for the sake of his mother...he was joking about it all the way. As far as he was concerned, it was just another experience" (Ehrenreich). Yet the present letter, written in Stanford's hand and in his own words to a close and trusted friend, shed new light on the experience.
Though he begins the letter with an attempt at light-heartedness, Stanford cannot conceal his emotional turmoil from Broughton. "Sorry I haven't been in touch. I no longer live in Fayetteville, in the log cabin. My temporary address is Coury House, Subiaco Abbey, Subiaco. For awhile I worked there with the monks. I am not there now. I'm in Little Rock, where I've been committed to the state mental institution. I have very few rights here." His hand far more cramped and small on the page, he lets the truth run out. "Irv, this is so humiliating for someone like myself. Strange, though, I only feel for all the poor, unfortunate, suffering creatures around me. I can't begin to describe their plight. The only thing I have here is a copy of Lawrence's Complete Poetry. I see things, feel things, so much like him. I feel so ashamed to be in a place like this."
As he swings between empathy and shame, though, Stanford also remembers that his friend understands his creative drive. Unsurprisingly, this confinement was also an inspiration to Stanford. "Ready to rise from my ashes," he tells Broughton that he has, "except for about 50 things I have out in the mail, all my manuscripts are burned...I'm ready to spread my wings and have perpetual intercourse with the living....What a strange, dark prodigy will I have alone." Lamenting the end of his marriage and the fact this his wife "doesn't understand" him, he proclaims "Now I need a woman deep as me Night herself...I want to laugh with no worries. I want to write with nothing but the moon on my mind. I want to be in love again." Already testing lines that would appear in different iterations in works like Shade and Ladies from Hell, he also begins a stream of consciousness that foretells his magnum opus, The Battlefield Where the Moon Says I Love You: "If he in the waters of the night running through his body like a silent rode. Come all you Queen of Hearts and meet the Ace of Sorrows, he's here today he's gone tomorrow."
An exceptionally revealing letter, at a pivotal time in Stanford's life that has sparked debate about how it affected him. (Item #3005)