Between 1972, when he published his first book, The Signing Knives, and 1978, when he died at the age of twenty-nine, Frank Stanford published seven volumes of poetry. Within a year of his death, two posthumous collections were published. At the time of this death, as Leon Stokesbury asserts in his introduction, “Stanford was the best poet in America under the age of thirty-five.”
The Light the Dead See collects the best work from those nine volumes and six previously unpublished poems. In the earlier poems, Stanford creates a world where he could keep childhood alive, deny time and mutability, and place a version of himself at the center of great myth and drama.
Later, the denial of time and mutability gives way to an obsessive and familiar confrontation with death. Although Stanford paid an enormous price for his growing familiarity with Death as a presence, the direct address to that presence is a source of much of the striking originality and stunning power in the poetry.