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Stanley Plumly

Stanley Plumly’s poetry collections include Now That My Father Lies Down Beside Me: New and Selected Poems 1970–2000 (Ecco, 2000) and Old Heart (Norton, 2009). He has been honored with the Delmore Schwartz Memorial Award, an Academy Award in Literature from the American Academy of Arts and Letters, an Ingram-Merrill Foundation Award, and fellowships from the Guggenheim Foundation and the National Endowment for the Arts.


Whitman’s Compost

Spring 2012 | Essays

Walt Whitman, Charles Feinberg Collection, Library of Congress The day Abraham Lincoln was first elected president, the Prince of Wales (later King Edward VII) arrived in Washington, DC, to find, in the words of a British reporter, a “strange ci [...]

A Place for People in Lyric Poetry

You may remember from some twenty years ago the PBS series titled Voices and Visions, which set about presenting documentaries of thirteen classic American poets—from Walt Whitman to Sylvia Plath. Not all the presentations are of equal value, thoug [...]

Cold Pastoral

Fall 2005 | Essays

Severn’s biographer and chief apologist, William Sharp, concludes that “throughout life Severn was a strange mixture of childlike vanity, genuine humility, high aims and ambitious efforts, with accomplishment often far short.” He adds that, at the same time, “strangely enough, he was conscious of less fear, of a self-possessed calm, whenever the peril of death was actually imminent.” And while James Clark, Keats’s Roman doctor, thought Severn “not the best suited for his companion”—too lightweight, too excitable, too—in Ruskin’s fine phrase for Severn—“daintily sentimental”—Severn proved, in spite of his highly strung nature, to be a first-rate nurse, if not a first-rate artist. In the four short months between leaving England, arriving in Italy, setting up house in Rome, and ministering to the daily graphic needs of a sick and dying man, Severn grew in the same role Keats himself had filled in his service to his brother Tom, just three years earlier. Sharp suggests two seminal experiences behind Severn’s relative calm in confronting death, perhaps the calm that permitted Severn the clarity to really see Keats the night of the deathbed sketch. First, when Severn was eight years old, he had “gone with a schoolmate named Cole to bathe in some water-filled gravel-pits, and in one of them his companion ventured beyond his depth and was drowned. There was no one near at the time, so the child had to watch his comrade perish, and then to make his way home, carrying the drowned boy’s clothes, and break the news to Mrs. Cole.”

Complaint Against the Arsonist

This pyrrhic fire the barn burned down and blew back into the dust-weight of its carbon, that burned the air flecked bright with it, above the wheat in flags, the barn I spent the summer part-time painting, white on white to purify the wood, the [...]