Frank Stanford was born August 1, 1948, in Richton, Mississippi. In 1949, he was adopted by Dorothy Gilbert. In 1952, Gilbert married A. F. Stanford, a levee contractor, and the family moved to Arkansas. Stanford grew up in Memphis and the Ozarks of Arkansas. In 1963, Stanford’s father died, and Stanford began to attend the Benedictine Academy and Monastery in Subiaco, Arkansas. He entered the University of Arkansas in 1967, where he studied civil engineering and became involved in the Fayetteville literary community. His first poems appeared in journals such as Ironwood, Field, and American Poetry Review.
In 1974, Stanford and his spouse, the painter Ginny Crouch, and moved to Eureka Springs, Arkansas, where Stanford worked as a land surveyor. In the early 1970s, he and his publisher, Irving Broughton, made a film about his life and work, titled It Wasn’t A Dream, It Was A Flood. The film won the 1975 West Coast Film Festival’s Best Experimental Film Award.
Stanford returned to Fayetteville in 1975 and lived with the poet C. D. Wright. He founded Lost Roads Publishers and continued to earn a living as a land surveyor. Between 1971 and 1977, seven volumes of his poetry were published, including The Battlefield Where the Moon Says I Love You (Lost Roads Publishing Company, 1977); Constant Stranger (Mill Mountain Press, 1976); Field Talk (Mill Mountain Press, 1975); Ladies from Hell (Mill Mountain Press, 1974); The Singing Knives (Lost Roads Publishing Company, 1971).
On June 3, 1978, Frank Stanford died of self-inflicted gunshot wounds. He was twenty-nine. Stanford’s powerful imagination has been praised and elegized by many poets including Thomas Lux, James Dickey, and Franz Wright. In 2019, Foundlings Press issued Constant Stranger: After Frank Stanford, a collection of poems in tribute to Stanford, which included a prose poem by his widow, Ginny, and poems by Forrest Gander and Ada Limón.