In Memoriam: Stanley Plumly

April 12, 2019

It is with great sadness that we mourn Distinguished University Professor Stanley Plumly, who died on Thursday, April 11, 2019, of multiple myeloma.

Distinguished University Professor Stanley PlumlyStanley Plumly (1939-2019) was born in Barnesville, Ohio and educated at Wilmington College and Ohio University, where he earned his PhD in English Literature.

He authored ten volumes of poetry, including Old Heart (2007), winner of the Los Angeles Times Book Prize and the Paterson Poetry Prize, and finalist for the National Book Award. His other volumes include In the Outer Dark (1970), winner of the Delmore Schwartz Memorial Award; Out-of-the-Body Travel (1978), nominated for the National Book Critics Circle Award; Now That My Father Lies Down Beside Me: New and Selected Poems 1970-2000 (2000); and most recently Orphan Hours (2012) and Against Sunset (2017). He also authored four celebrated works of non-fiction, including Elegy Landscapes, Posthumous Keats, and An Immortal Evening, winner of the Truman Capote Award for Literary Criticism.

Stanley Plumly’s other honors include eight Pushcart Prizes, an Academy Award in Literature from the American Academy of Arts and Letters, and fellowships from the Guggenheim Foundation, the Rockefeller Foundation, the Ingram-Merrill Foundation, the National Endowment for the Arts, as well as membership in the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. He taught at the University of Iowa, Houston, and Princeton universities.  Stanley was hired by UMD in 1985 to create the English Department's MFA Program in Creative Writing.  Under his direction, the Creative Writing Program has achieved national prominence and is now one of the most competitive programs in the country. Stanley also served as Maryland’s poet laureate from 2009-2018.

Stanley is one of the most important, admired, and influential teachers of his generation. He often gave this simple, challenging, encouraging, and emphatic piece of advice: “just do the work.” Those who followed his advice include former U.S. Poets Laureate, Pulitzer Prize and National Book Award winners, as well as MacArthur and many Guggenheim foundation fellows. While he made an early reputation as a ground-breaking poet in the 70’s, with his books Out-of-the-Body Travel and Summer Celestial--a reputation he continued to build and develop throughout his career--he also became known internationally as a scholar and biographer of English Romantic poetry and nineteenth-century English painting. His last book, which was published in the fall of 2018, was a comparative study of Constable and Turner. During the last few months of his life, Stanley had finished a collection of poems, Middle Distance, and was planning a collected volume of poems as well as sketching out ideas for a study of the pastoral tradition in art and poetry.

The Department of English and the University of Maryland community mourn the loss of a towering figure who touched many, many lives. Our thoughts are with his family, colleagues, students, and loved ones.

A memorial service for Stanley will be held on campus at Memorial Chapel, on Saturday, September 21, at 7:30pm. More information about the service will be available closer to the event.