Some authors never get to see their work grow in popularity in their lifetime – think F. Scott Fitzgerald and the surging popularity of The Great Gatsby years after his death. This is the case with Frank Stanford, a prolific poet who has had two collections published posthumously this year, from Copper Canyon Press and Third Man Books. Since Stanford’s suicide at 29 in 1978, his fan base has grown slowly, with little work available to the majority of readers. The titles What About This from Copper Canyon Press (April 2015) and Hidden Water from Third Man Books (August 2015) give readers a definitive collection of Stanford’s works, and the titles are getting attention.
What About This brings together Stanford’s published and unpublished manuscripts and poems, and drafts and segments of previously uncollected work. Third Man Books’ companion title, Hidden Water is a collection of previously unpublished poems and drafts, as well as photographs and letters that illuminate the person behind Stanford’s mysterious character. As the Houston Chronicle said on August 21, 2015 in an article about the “mainstream acceptance of the author,” Stanford has never been widely known or read, but instead has “floated, ghostlike, through certain segments of the literary South.” The article continues, saying the two collections “make Stanford’s work feel legitimate, as though he’s been recognized by the academy and will soon take his place in anthologies and high school textbooks.”
Both Third Man Books and Copper Canyon Press publish stunning poetry, and they were naturally drawn to Stanford’s talent and mystery. Copper Canyon Press was captivated by Stanford’s lyrical and dramatic voice and his range in topics covered, from politics and race to culture and humanity, while Third Man Books’s title provides the intimate Stanford–replete with letters and photographs that paint the human Stanford.
These titles introduce Stanford to new readers and gives long-time fans a definitive collection of his works. Clearly, for Third Man Books and Copper Canyon Press, intense, dramatic, and thought-provoking work deserves to be published. And read.