Stan Sanvel Rubin, RWW Program Director, has announced that highly honored American poet and teacher, Stanley Plumly, will be a special guest of the upcoming RWW Residency in August 2011. “Plumly is someone we’ve long wanted to have at Residency,” Rubin said. The synchronicity of Plumly’s visit with our inaugural series focusing on “place” has not been lost on the editorial staff of Soundings. There seems no better occasion for welcoming such a distinctly American poet whose work is tied to place in so many ways.
Plumly’s poetry has illuminated universal human troubles and transfigurations through his metaphoric connections to finely observed natural and human landscapes. He examines deeply personal experiences of family within his particular context of rural, working class Ohio, elevating those realistic physical and emotional settings to examine the larger archetypal conflicts and connections between parents and children. As Plumly explained in a Summer 1996 Boston Review interview:
“…For me it’s not possible to live in the enclosure—and what I consider the claustrophobia—of a completely imagined world. I have to drag in the furniture that real people sat in and talked on. And the weapons they used, I have to bring that in too, and if there was blood, I have to notice that, and I have to say it was real blood, it wasn’t metaphysical blood, and so forth.”
Plumly’s work has spanned several decades while the Midwestern settings of his poetry have undergone enormous change, becoming more homogenous, suburban, and less connected to nature.
“My worst fear is that, if any of my poems survive, I will be seen as a poet who treated the natural world with nostalgia, because by the 1970s, ’80s and ’90s it was disappearing or had already disappeared. To me that’s not it at all. If I were a city poet and the city were my setting, then that would be my nature. It’s just that I grew up in the countryside, on the edge of towns, as it were, which is a pretty typical American experience—the so-called natural world, or the domesticated natural world… to me, birds, flowers and trees are part of the setting in which human events belong and are made more alive.”
Plumly’s poetry collections include In the Outer Dark (Louisiana State University Press, 1970), which won the Delmore Schwartz Memorial Award; Giraffe (Louisiana State University Press, 1973); Out-of-the-Body Travel (Ecco Press, 1977), which won the William Carlos Williams Award and was nominated for the National Book Critics Circle Award; Summer Celestial (Ecco Press, 1983); Boy on the Step (Ecco Press, 1989); The Marriage in the Trees (Ecco Press, 1997); Now that My Father Lies Down Beside Me (Ecco Press, 2001); and Old Heart (W. W. Norton, 2007) which won the LA Times Book Review’s Poetry Book of the Year prize and was nominated for a National Book Award. Plumly has also written nonfiction, including Posthumous Keats: A Personal Biography (W. W. Norton, 2008) and Argument & Song: Sources & Silences in Poetry (Other Press, 2003). Plumly has won six Pushcart Prizes; he edited the Ohio Review from 1970 to 1975 and the Iowa Review from 1976 to 1978. Plumly has taught at a wide cross-section of institutions, including Louisiana State University, Ohio University, Princeton, Columbia, and the Universities of Iowa, Michigan, and Houston, as well as at the Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference in 1978 and 1979 (he also co-edited The New Bread Loaf Anthology of Contemporary American Poetry). His honors include a Guggenheim Fellowship, an Ingram-Merrill Foundation Fellowship, and three National Endowment for the Arts grants. He is a professor of English at the University of Maryland, College Park and has been Maryland’s poet laureate since 2009.
Plumly will lead off the Morning Talks and Craft Readings for this year’s Residency on Monday August 8. He will also offer a Master Poetry Workshop, replacing Linda Bierds this year (who will be in England during this year’s Residency period). “Linda sends regrets and will return next August,” says Rubin.
See your RWW class schedule for more information about Plumly’s upcoming workshop and craft talk.
For more on Stanley Plumly: