Early this week a weighty tome dropped like an anchor onto our desk: What About This: Collected Poems of Frank Stanford. The author, if you haven’t discovered him yet, is a figure of Arkansas literary legend, “a fast-loving Ozark sage, spawn of Lao-Tzu and Whitman by way of Vallejo and Breton,” a genius of language who ended his life early by putting a gun to his beating chest. In the photo on the book’s cover Stanford kneels, with his right elbow on one knee. His eyebrows are close, and there’s a clouded intensity in his poetic gaze. The image is washed in a blue-gray filter, which makes it seem as if he’s looking at you from behind tinted aquarium glass. There isn’t enough room here to review his work, but we do recommend this BOMB interview with the editor who imagined the collection; “The Long Goodbye” by Ben Ehrenreich (which contains enough gothic adventure and imagination to match Stanford’s best work), “Magic Against Death” by Jimmy Cajoleas, and “The Return of Frank Stanford” by Matthew Herrinksen.
Now we find ourselves in the most beautiful time to live in the South—those few perfect weeks between the gray rain of winter and the unbearable heat of summer. We can think of no better way to celebrate the weather than by stringing up a hammock and reading a few chapters of Roy Bedichek’s Adventures with a Texas Naturalist. The 1947 classic is as richly varied as the natural world it describes, ranging from quiet ramblings on the habits of birds to impassioned, prescient calls to protect vulnerable ecosystems. Bedichek’s folksy charm and easy good humor make this work a joy to get lost in. And if the weather doesn’t cooperate or you don’t have a handy hammock tree, don’t despair. The accompanying illustrations from the great Texas artist Ward Lockwood are the next best thing.
As summer creeps up through the days, it’s time to wrap up our spring projects and slip away for a short vacation—to North Carolina for a week, to the Blue Ridge Mountains, where we’ll sit on a stone-laid deck, sipping Old Fashioneds, smelling the sweet, dark smoke of beef blackening on the gas grill, whiskey and barbeque sauce. It’ll be luxurious in the way that only family vacations can be. We’ve already emptied the shelves of the public library in anticipation of the trip: on the flight we’ll dig into The Tusk That Did the Damage, by Tania James. For the deck, during the cool misty dew-dropped mornings, we have ready Karen Russell’s Vampires in the Lemon Grove. If it rains and we’re feeling existentially lost, we’ll turn to Werner Herzog: A Guide For the Perplexed, a glorious set of interviews to bring us back from the dark.