[Eureka Springs, Arkansas]: February 18, 1972. 7 page Autograph Letter Signed in blue marker, on rectos of white sheets measuring 8.5 x 11". Addressed to his publisher Irv Broughton, and composed after the poet's divorce and release from the Arkansas State Mental Hospital, the letter reveals a sense of clarity and a renewed drive to write.
As with many of the letters between Stanford and Broughton, the poet opens with warmth and familiarity. "Dear Irv, Thanks for the call last night, Rather: Early This Morning, here...Sorry I was incoherent, if not suborbital. You sound good & clear & broke." Much of the first page is dedicated to reminding Broughton to check out the films of Cocteau -- especially La Belle et la Bete -- but after concluding his movie recommendations, he shifts to a more poignant topic and a notably more aggressive tone. His target: American poets and critics.
"The same people who are admonishing we poets to forget Europe and god only knows where else in favor of America are the same people who turned their backs on Whitman years ago," he observes, "I feel that Americans are all paranoid and insecure now, and so they form these stupid little cliched ways of writing poetry...I refuse to listen to American neuroses -- just these anxious voices -- these other whisperings are voices from hell. My mind is clear: Artists of All persuasions and nations appeal to me." In a passive reference to his time in the institution he adds, "I may decend into hell occasionally, but no longer than Dante!" For Stanford, like the classical poet, a descent into hell could lead to his greatest poetry and to the ability to clearly observe the hypocrisy surrounding him. "Americans are trying to rediscover their own past & traditions...[they] are overreacting: camping, hiking, farm poetry. How completely ridiculous & absurd & artificial. These Americans are reacting this way because their suburban & urban backyards were full of dog poop & so small -- so small....My backyard was infinite, anyway, and everything can and did happen."
Tied to the land, Stanford asserts that "my poetry has nothing to do with the history of literature, schools, magazines." Circling back to the films of Cocteau, he explains that he sees himself there, in that both the filmmaker and himself are "realistic, yet, not surrealistic" as others might say, that they "disobey dead rules." He concludes: "ENOUGH. Don't lose this letter." (Item #3008)