Stanton, Maura 1946-
STANTON, Maura 1946-
PERSONAL: Born September 9, 1946, in Evanston, IL; daughter of Joseph (a salesman) and Wanda (a nurse; maiden name, Haggard) Stanton; married Richard Cecil, 1972. Education: University of Minnesota, B.A., 1969; University of Iowa, M.F.A., 1971.
ADDRESSES: Office—Department of English, 442 Ballantine Hall, Indiana University, Bloomington, IN 47405-7103.
CAREER: Poet and novelist. Associated with State University of New York at Cortland, 1972-73, University of Richmond, 1973-77, Humboldt State University, 1977-78, and University of Arizona, 1978-82; Indiana University, teacher of creative writing, 1982—.
AWARDS, HONORS: Yale Younger Poets Prize, 1974; National Endowment for the Arts grant, 1974, 1982; Frances Steloff Fiction Prize, 1975; named distinguished author-in-residence, Mary Washington College, 1981-82; Lawrence Foundation prize for short story, Michigan Quarterly Review, 1982; Nelson Algren award, 1998; Richard Sullivan prize in short fiction, 2002, for Do Not Forsake Me, Oh My Darling; Michigan Literary Fiction Award, 2003, for Cities in the Sea.
Snow on Snow (poetry), foreword by Stanley Kunitz, Yale University Press (New Haven, CT), 1975.
Molly Companion (novel), Bobbs-Merrill (Indianapolis, IN), 1977.
Cries of Swimmers (poetry), University of Utah Press (Salt Lake City, UT), 1984.
The Country I Come From (stories), Milkweed Editions (Minneapolis, MN), 1988.
Tales of the Supernatural: Poems, David R. Godine (Boston, MA), 1988.
Life among the Trolls (poetry), David R. Godine (Boston, MA), 1994.
Glacier Wine (poetry), Carnegie Mellon University Press (Pittsburgh, PA), 2001.
Do Not Forsake Me, Oh My Darling (stories), University of Notre Dame Press (Notre Dame, IN), 2002.
Cities in the Sea (stories), University of Michigan Press (Ann Arbor, MI), 2003.
Contributor of poems and stories to periodicals, including American Poetry Review, Crazyhorse, Ploughshares, Chicago Tribune, Paris Review, New Yorker, and Poetry.
SIDELIGHTS: Maura Stanton's poetry is known for its bitter irony and unusual metaphors and themes. Terry Eagleton commented in Stand that "Maura Stanton's Snow on Snow is a strikingly mature first work, full of eloquent, spontaneously lyrical pieces which combine bizarre Freudian fantasy with a sharply realistic intelligence. The complex and inventive imagery flows too fast to cloy, and though the craftsmanship isn't obvious, most of the poems are unobtrusively shaped and controlled beneath their apparently random surfaces." Reviewers have compared Stanton's poetry to that of Sylvia Plath. Vernon Young wrote in Hudson Review, "A comparison with Sylvia Plath may be alarming yet it is, I think, inevitable: [in Snow on Snow there] is the same imperiled hermeticism, the same wizard capacity for transmuting an inner nightmare (of frigidity, metamorphosis, explosion) in a coherent but exotic complex of images, often under the aspect of the mythopoeic memory. At incandescent junctures, the always beautifully integrated poem threatens to consume itself in its own tranquil fury; it never does; the crisis, dire and insupportable, finds its agonized, mollifying musical resolution."
J. D. McClatchy also likened Stanton to Plath "with a flat, midwestern accent." He continued in his Yale Review article: "[She] has layered her confessional excerpts with effective dramatic monologues—both imaginative and allusive—that vary the volume's tonality. Both sustain a similar thematic concern: the inability to sort motives from consequences. We are not lost in experience, but from experience…. Stanton is strongest when she combines her fabular instinct with her persistent anxiety." Lorrie Goldensohn admired Stanton's use of myth, remarking in Parnassus that "The complex changes rung on her basic counters—brain, whiteness, stone, skin, water and air—create a literally fluid balance of tone. It seems in keeping, then, that so many of the voices of the poems are also fluid, or ambiguously split in point of view. Irony may be comfortable to this poet because it can straddle value possibilities; because it supports a boundary-sitting consciousness always testing the thought of crossing over. Stanton's most successful poems are frequently revisions of myth, ambiguously poised black comedy where the bite of the retelling is downward and satirical."
Stanton's next published book was a novel, Molly Companion; she has also published books of short fiction. The poet brings that sense of plot and characterization to her follow-up poetry collection, Cries of Swimmers. That work "identifies the strongest element of [Snow on Snow] because it so willfully develops it," noted Dictionary of Literary Biography contributor Sidney Burris. "Her gift for narrative, based on her ability to move fluidly from line to line while maintaining simultaneously a sense of each line's integrity." Burris noted that in her first poetry collection, Stanton "largely avoided the sequential restrictions of plotting, but the poems of her second collection embrace those restrictions while retaining a measure of the surrealistic invention that characterizes her first book."
Burris pointed to one poem, "Maple Tree," as an example of an "eccentric situation" (an old man suffers an apparent heart attack while up a tree) which is "[grounded] within a strong narrative context." Within the poem are descriptions of a curious crowd that gathered to watch the old man's rescue; to Burris, "the reader is reminded of one of the fairy tales by the Brothers Grimm, where excruciating scenes are relayed in a disarmingly naïve language."
"Maple Tree" is one poem that takes a supernatural bent, as Burris noted; in Tales of the Supernatural, a 1988 collection, Stanton explores that theme more fully. This volume, commented a Poetry reviewer, is divided into two sections, "the first consisting of fabulous tales and the second of realistic sketches." Some poems focus on ordinary people living rather bleak lives. In "Wander Indiana," for instance, the narrator declares that "none of us exist"; another poem, "The Headache," features what the Poetry writer described as "a lonely apartment-dweller, listening to her neighbor play Schubert on the violin" and "encounters the composer in her living room."
An instructor at Indiana University, Stanton has experience with the academics who make up the "title" characters in her 1994 poetry collection, Life among the Trolls. She reminisces about attending a Modern Language Association conference and presenting a paper on a professor with whom she shared an awkward undergraduate visit. The poem ends: "He'd ruined my life / How I hated him—/Hated all writers with their tangled stories." Poetry's Michael Scharf wrote that Stanton "at times comments sardonically on her descent into middle-age" and is "given to tough, saturated imagery and energetic engagement." Glacier Wine, published in 2002, hearkens to the author's fiction as Stanton acknowledges "death and aging—the inevitability of impermanence juxtaposed against the insistent realities of the world—as they recall departed friends and family members," as Leslie Ullman stated in a Poetry review. In poems that dwell on a grain of salt or an old, abandoned thought, Stanton makes forays into "speculation and imagination," noted Ullman, with "a confidence in their journeys that gives them considerable authority."
Departing from poetry, Stanton has produced fiction collections, including The Country I Come From; Do Not Forsake Me, Oh My Darling; and Cities in the Sea. In the first work, according to Maxine Chernoff in the New York Times Book Review, several of the stories are set in a Midwest characterized by "driving rain and bitter cold." This environment coincides with what Chernoff called the author's "stark style and anthropomorphic view of nature" as an unnamed narrator recounts growing up in a childhood that is far from idyllic. Do Not Forsake Me, in the opinion of Booklist critic Brendan Dowling, "displays [the author's] keen ability to capture characters who are outwardly unnoticeable," such as the trailer-park denizen who reveals a more compelling early life. With this book, concluded a Publishers Weekly reviewer, Stanton "proves that she can tell a tale, develop it and introduce some prickly, dramatic elements—all of which come together to gratifying effect."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Contemporary Literary Criticism, Volume 9, Gale (Detroit, MI), 1978.
Dictionary of Literary Biography, Volume 120. American Poets since World War II, Gale (Detroit, MI), 1992.
American Poetry Review, September-October, 1985, Frederick Garber, review of Cries of Swimmers; November, 1989, review of Tales of the Supernatural, p. 21.
Booklist, January 1, 1989, review of Tales of the Supernatural, p. 747; February 1, 1989, review of The Country I Come From, p. 912; November 15 2001, Brendan Dowling, review of Do Not Forsake Me, Oh My Darling, p. 549.
Georgia Review, winter, 1985, review of Cries of Swimmers, p. 849.
Hudson Review, winter, 1975-76, Vernon Young, review of Snow on Snow.
Kirkus Reviews, September 15, 1988, review of The Country I Come From, p. 1355.
Kliatt Young Adult Paperback Book Guide, January, 1989, review of The Country I Come From, p. 32.
Library Journal, October 1, 1977.
Michigan Quarterly Review, summer, 1989, review of Tales of the Supernatural, p. 417.
New England Review/Bread Loaf Quarterly, summer, 1989, review of The Country I Come From, p. 98.
New York Times Book Review, February 26, 1989, Maxine Chernoff, review of The Country I Come From, p. 30.
North American Review, March-April, 2002, Vince Gotera, review of Glacier Wine, p. 37.
Parnassus, spring-summer, 1976, Lorrie Goldensohn, review of Snow on Snow.
Poetry, May, 1989, review of Tales of the Supernatural, pp. 103-105; February, 1999, Michael Scharf, review of Life among the Trolls, p. 320; January, 2002, Leslie Ullman, review of Glacier Wine, p. 226.
Publishers Weekly, September 30, 1988, review of The Country I Come From, p. 60; December 17, 2001, review of Do Not Forsake Me, Oh My Darling, p. 65.
Saturday Review, April 19, 1975, review of Snow on Snow. Small Press Review, February, 1990, review of Tales of the Supernatural, p. 12.
Stand, Volume 17, number 1, 1975-76, Terry Eagleton, review of Snow on Snow.
Village Voice, December 15, 1975, review of Snow on Snow.
Women's Review of Books, March, 1989, review of Tales of the Supernatural, p. 11.
Yale Review, autumn, 1975, J. D. McClatchy, review of Snow on Snow.*