Stanley Plumly: The Morning America Changed

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On May 23, 1939, Stanley Plumly was born to Herman and Esther Plumly in Barnesville, Ohio. Following Stanley's birth, the family moved from farm work to carpentry jobs and back to farm work in Virginia and Ohio. Plumly graduated from Wilmington College, a small work-study school in Ohio, in 1962. While he was in college, his writing talents were recognized and encouraged by the playwright-poet-teacher Joel Climenhaga. Plumly received his MA from Ohio University in 1968 and did course work toward a PhD at the same school.

The writer's father, who died at the age of fifty-six of a heart attack brought on by his chronic alcoholism, dominates the poet's work: "I can hardly think of a poem I've written that at some point in its history did not implicate, or figure, my father" (Iowa Review, Fall 1973). His mother also figures prominently as the silent, helpless witness of her husband's self-destruction.

Plumly's books of poetry include Old Heart (W. W. Norton, 2007); The Marriage in the Trees (Ecco Press, 1997); Boy on the Step (1989); Summer Celestial (1983); Out-of-the-Body Travel (1977), which won the William Carlos Williams Award and was nominated for the National Book Critics Circle Award; Giraffe (1973); In the Outer Dark (1970), which won the Delmore Schwartz Memorial Award. He is also the author of the nonfiction books Posthumous Keats: A Personal Biography (W. W. Norton, 2008); Argument & Song: Sources & Silences in Poetry (Other Press, 2003).

He edited the Ohio Review from 1970 to 1975 and the Iowa Review from 1976 to 1978. He has taught at numerous institutions including Louisiana State University, Ohio University, Princeton, Columbia, and the Universities of Iowa, Michigan, and Houston, as well as at the Bread Loaf Writers' Conference in 1978 and 1979.

His honors include a Guggenheim Fellowship (Plumly's father died while the poet was in Europe on this grant in 1973), an Ingram-Merrill Foundation Fellowship, and a National Endowment for the Arts grant. He is a professor of English at the University of Maryland, College Park. Currently, he is Maryland's poet laureate.



The Morning America Changed 

Happened in the afternoon at Villa Serbelloni.

Weâd closed up shop on the work for the day

and decided to make the long descent down

the elegant stone switchback path into Bellagio

for coffee and biscotti. It was still Tuesday

and a quarter to three and a good quarter hour

to the exit gate or if you stopped to look

at the snow on the Alps or at "the deepest

lake in all of Italy" or looked both ways

at once÷as we say crossing a street÷five,

ten minutes longer. This day was longer

because it was especially, if redundantly,

beautiful, with the snow shining and the lake

shining and the big white boats shining 

with tourists from Tremezzo and Varenna.

And the herring gulls and swallows at different

layers, shining like mica in the mountain rock.

And the terra cotta tiles of the village roofs

almost shining, almost close enough to touch.

Judith was already in the pasticceria

and I was looking skyward on Via Garibaldi,

the one-way traffic lane circling the town,

when I heard the rain in the distance breaking

and then her voice through the window calling

and then on the tiny screen inside

pillars of fire pouring darkly into clouds.