Introducing the Stanley Plumly Memorial Digital Archive

Joshua Weiner, Guest Editor

The idea of a digital memorial archive devoted to the poet Stanley Plumly sprouted like a mushroom in the spring of 2020, several months into the Covid-19 pandemic and a year after Stan’s death in April 2019. In addition to being a lauded and laureled poet, Stan was one of the most influential teachers of poetry we’ve had; he belonged to a generation of writers who furthered the burgeoning of creative writing as a field within the institution of higher education, at the graduate level of the creative PhD as well as the MFA, and in helping institutions within institutions (AWP, the Poetry Society of America, and the American Academy of Poets) become what they are now—one of the bedrocks of the culture. 

Stan made his life in the university, but it was not necessarily a destiny or destination. He hailed from the farm and lumberlands of Ohio; his father was a lumberjack, part of a family lumber business. His fondness for that region infuses his poems, the landscape of the rural Midwest akin to the English countryside he attended to carefully in his writing about the Romantic poets and painters. Although he taught at many universities, especially at the beginning of his career as a teacher and writer, he came to favor the mellow softness of the mid-Atlantic, which felt like home to him.

His many books of poetry garnered distinctions right and left, including the Delmore Schwartz Memorial award for In the Outer Dark (1970); a National Book Critics Circle Award for Out-of-the-Body Travel (1978); the Los Angeles Times Book Prize and the Paterson Poetry Prize for Old Heart (2009), which was also a finalist for the National Book Award. Plumly’s command of language, form, historical imagination, and a powerfully rendered sensorium of memory and embodiment were not limited to the writing of poetry, but also garnered praise in the field of biography—Posthumous Keats: A Personal Biography (2008) was named a runner-up for the PEN/Jacqueline Bograd Weld Award for Distinguished Biography.

Other honors and awards included fellowships from the Guggenheim Foundation, Rockefeller Foundation, the National Endowment of the Arts, and others. Among his many teaching gigs and appointments, Iowa, Houston, Princeton, and the Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference stand out. Most significantly, this part of Stan’s devotion to the art of teaching poetry and imaginative writing found realization in his long tenure at University of Maryland.

As a teacher, Stan’s effect on students, many of whom went on to contribute meaningfully to sustaining the art of poetry in the U.S., was legendary; and up to the year he stopped teaching due to an overtaking myeloma, students felt the influence of his attention to their poems and to them personally. I got to see that firsthand as a colleague of Stan’s at Maryland, where Stan started the MFA program in the mid-1980s, and where I joined him, Michael Collier, and the late Elizabeth Arnold, to create a poetry faculty that worked together in an unusually complementary and copacetic fashion for almost twenty years. 

After his death, I knew there were so many poets out there who felt their debt and gratitude toward Stan for his teaching and mentoring, the idea of a place that could collect memories, testimonies, homages, tributes, seemed a cinch: I would put out the call, the materials would roll in, I’d put them in some kind of arrangement, and the whole thing would snap together and go live in a jiff. Right . . .

Pieces did come in, but in waves; in between there were great lulls, many a result of the pandemic. It was a slow process. In the meantime, good things were slowly happening outside my view: the Hornbake Library at Maryland (the special collections and university archive) had acquired all the papers Stan had left in his office in Tawes Hall, and some from home—and it was a lot. Although it’s only loosely organized now, and in a somewhat raw state awaiting proper processing, the time that drifted by also meant that the collection was now ready for some concerted rummaging. I spent months this past year going through things. It’s a treasure trove. Once it’s available to the public, anyone interested will find it worth their while to make the trip and spend some time there.

This digital archive is no depository; it’s more like a glorified scrapbook with some very choice meaty items in it. It’s meant to be a place of tribute, homage, and memorial and to suggest the wealth of materials that have yet to be sorted. Anyone who’s read Stan’s great book of essays, Argument and Song; or the pieces scattered up and down the stratigraphy of journals and magazines; or the two books on Keats and the Keats circle; or the last book on Turner and Constable; anyone who has had the privilege of hearing him lecture on the ode, the elegy, or the lyric; we all know how rich these pieces are, how much living with and within the art of poetry they exhibit, are informed by, and convey to the world. 

Stan’s teaching always radiated outward far beyond his ken. What visitors to this little archive will find is further evidence of that intelligence; the mind of the teaching poet, sympathetic, alive with the heat of its attention, and inviting in its imaginative inquiring warmth. Stan was a great writer of sentences. Even in preparing lectures, the feeling of a delicately worked sentence in tune with the speaking voice—and he had a wonderfully rich voice of great timbre and volume—is audible, practiced, perfected. This virtuosity with the sentence carried over, naturally, to other prose occasions, of personal memory, tribute, and appreciation of other poets’ work outside the precincts of the formal critical essay.

You’ll find some fine examples here, along with sample syllabi and reading lists from some of the poetry courses he taught over the years—on language and landscape, American prosody, English Romantic lyric, the long poem, and an introduction to poetry that drew students by the hundreds every year. 

Additionally, you’ll find some of my grabs from the many thick folders of manuscript pages from the drafting toward book publication. These are fascinating narrow windows into process, where we can see the poet strike, for example, a concrete noun for an abstract one and open the poem like a splash of spring water in scotch. Poets who have worked with Stan and received comments from him on their drafts will recognize the nature of his discernment in the record of his own process.

Although we couldn’t include a sample of correspondence from other poets, visitors to the Hornbake’s archive will find letters to Stan from Philip Levine, Mark Strand, Louise Glück, Donald Hall, and others—even a short cryptic one from Wallace Stevens (!) who quotes from his poem “Gubbinal.” And some of those curiously formal but famously overinvolved editorial letters from the New Yorker’s Howard Moss.  

Torn event flyers and yellowing newspaper clippings exude a weird charisma, you might find, but they also carry some indefinable scent of what the poetry culture was like fifty years ago . . .

Photographs include some family ones of the farm in Ohio; a funny basketball game of poets in 1973; and a creel of candid shots capturing the enduring friendship of “the Boyz”—Stan, Daniel Halpern, Bill Matthews, and Russell Banks (Jonathan Baumbach even shows up in one, part of Bill Matthews’s wedding party). 

Complementing all of this are the pieces that students and friends have sent in—poems, tributes, short essays, and fugitive snaps brought into the fold. 

My hope is that those who knew Stan, and know the work of the poet and teacher, will find something here to blow fresh air into their sense of what he gave them, to inspire them further, and to let them experience how a poet continues to teach long after the person of the poet has gone. For those who are encountering Stanley Plumly for the first time, I hope, by reaching out to the embers here and warming the fingertips, it inspires you to find the books of poems and prose, and to keep them in your hands a while.

I want to thank Gerald Maa and CJ Bartunek at Georgia Review for their encouragement, expertise, and support putting this thing together and hosting it at GR—Stan would be really pleased. Michael Collier, David Baker, Daniel Halpern, and Sebastian Matthews provided crucial expeditious help when it was needed most. Special thanks to Amber Kohl, the curator of the Literature and Rare Books collections at University of Maryland’s Hornbake Library, who guided me as I worked in a very fresh physical archive. And to Margaret Forian-Rhinehart, appreciative thanks for supporting these efforts.

—Washington D.C., April 19, 2024


*The Stanley Plumly papers are a part of the Literature and Rare Book collections in Special Collections and University Archives at the University of Maryland. Located in Hornbake Library, the collection is open to research. Inquiries about the collection can be directed to All materials from the Hornbake collection are published here by the permission of the Estate of Stanley Plumly.




Friends, colleagues, and students remember Stanley Plumly

AWP Plumly Memorial: David Baker, Jill Bialosky, Liz Countryman, Patrick Phillips, and Maggie Smith

Russell Banks

Joanne Rocky Delaplaine

Daniel Halpern

Tyler Mills

John Van Kirk

Rose Solari 



Writings inspired by or dedicated to Stanley Plumly

Lindsay Bernal

Charlie Clark

Joanne Rocky Delaplaine

Kevin Craft

Katherine DeBlassie Page

William Fargason

Hoke Glover

Jae Dyche

Joshua Lavender

Susan Okie

Hannah Baker Saltmarsh (poem)

Hannah Baker Saltmarsh (critical essay)

Jason Schneiderman

Joshua Mensch



A glimpse into Plumly’s teaching practice

Introduction to Poetry syllabus

Introduction to Poetry exams

American Prosody syllabus

English Romantic Lyric syllabus

Language & Landscape syllabus

Romantic Moderns syllabus



Press and promotion from Plumly’s career

Columbia University

New School Fall 1977

Barnesville Enterprise

Daily Reveille 12.12.68

Houston City Magazine 11.79



Miscellaneous snapshots from Plumly’s collection and submitted by his friends and family



Plumly in the act of writing and revising

Draft of “Middle Distance”

Draft of “The Hawk”

Draft of “Variation on a Line from Elizabeth Bishop’s ‘Five Flights Up’ “

Draft of “Souls of Suicides as Birds”

Draft of “The Marriage of the Trees”



Undated drafts of critical essays and personal recollections by Plumly

Meeting Cleanth Brooks

On Marianne Moore

On Rita Dove


Lyric Time

Remembering Hugo




Stanley Plumly reads his own works in a series of recordings from the Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference

David Baker reads Stanley Plumly poems on The New Yorker’s podcast (June 21, 2023)

Steven Kleinman and David Baker discuss Stanley Plumly as part of an American Poetry Review podcast episode on mentorship. (January 15, 2020)

In a 2020 conversation for Kenyon Review Online, David Baker and Michael Collier discuss Plumly’s Middle Distance

Five poems by Plumly published by Beltway Poetry in 2002

Anna Leahy, “Under the Influence of Stanley Plumly

Shara Lessley on Stanley Plumly’s “Dutch Elm