Frank Stanford: In His Own Words

All images come from It Wasn’t A Dream: It Was A Flood

I show Frank Stanford’s film It Wasn’t A Dream: It Was A Flood in creative writing class. Per a student’s request, and for anyone interested, here are five of Frank Stanford’s speaking parts**. He and Irv Broughton directed the film in 1974.


Stanford first speaks about four and a half minutes into the film. This is what he says:

“We all know what happens when one of the gods has a favorite, when they want to connive and they don’t want this man to die in battle and they want this person to make love to this one, we know what happens in mythology, not so much the Greek state but the Greek mythology. In the South things are always interrelated like this. You can’t quit. When a man shoots somebody over here or when this man marries this woman or when someone has an affair here, it’s all going to have to take its toll on high and low.”

A storm thunders in the background while a butterfly walks up a tree trunk when Stanford speaks next. He shares his free associations:

“When I look at the bark of a tree, I might look at my arm. I might think of a spider floating along in fall or a shooting star, a constellation, or a mathmatical formula, or chess being played. Everything flows like that, I think. Nuetrons and Jupiter, they’re all, they seem insignificant, it’s a difference in size. It doesn’t make any difference. It’s because it’s perpetual. We can keep decreasing, we can keep increasing. And it doesn’t make me feel puny, it makes me in awe. As Lao-Tze said, ‘Those people who are not always in constant awe, surely some great tragedy will befall them.’ And I think that’s tue.”

Soon after Subiaco Academy appears Stanford talks about the Benedictine monks:

“For the most part, the monks are dreamers and visionaries. Some of them are farmers and some of them are linguists. Some of them are brilliant. Some of them are passionate, compassionate. Some of them are cruel. All in all, they’re men who understand the spiritual life, they understand the vision. A monk out in a field on a tractor might get off and drop to his knees in a field of milo or a field of soybeans, because he saw something. And I feel good in the company of these men. There I can… a whole variety of different kinds of monks, I can relay my experience, I can tell them what I think, what I dream, what I feel, and, all kinds of these men, they understand what I say, they understand what I say.”

About fifteen minutes into the film Stanford mentions the way strong women inspire his writing:

“Like Strindberg and Faulkner and Lawrence and Bergman and Renoir, I’m interested in writing about women. Might have no contemporary significance, my point of view may not go along with anything current. I’ve known some fine and great, powerful and beautiful women. I would like to write about them.”

While credits for the film roll, Stanford’s voiceover reveals a peculiar creative process and an allegory for his life:

“I couldn’t understand why I would write some things, you know. I would put it down on paper, how things came. I wouldn’t understand it. I wouldn’t understand why I said that. And it got to be sort of like factions. The reality that I knew was so strange that, though I did differentiate, I put a lot of trust in dreams. For me to have one of these figures from the past appear and converse was just as real as somebody cutting a leg off and me swimming out, saving them in the water, and then going back, diving down, looking for the leg and then going into town and having a date, bringing her out there and swimming around with her. It’s not grotesque. It’s not. I don’t know what it is. It’s just strange. In reality, things happen that we try to understand and are conscious sometimes of the judiciary and it’s the same way in sleep, I believe. You wake up, and you’ll dream something that might not be any stranger than what happened to you the day before. And you want to know why it happened more than any psychological reason for why did I dream this. I want to know why this action took place, what happened to this man, what happened to this woman. Is it good or is it bad?”

** All Frank Stanford quotes are verbatim.


Frank Stanford Literary Festival

The Frank Stanford Literary Festival will take place in Fayetteville, Arkansas, September 21–23, 2018. Visit openmouthreadings.com for more information.