An Influx of Poets

A Story

by Jean Stafford

That awful summer! Every poet in America came to stay with us. It was the first summer after the war, when people once again had gasoline and could go where they liked, and all those poets came to our house in Maine and stayed for weeks at a stretch, bringing wives or mistresses with whom they quarreled, and complaining so vividly about the wives and mistresses they’d left, or had been left by, that the discards were real presences, swelling the ranks, stretching the house, my house (my very own, my first and very own), to its seams. At night, after supper, they’d read from their own works until four o’clock in the morning, drinking Cuba Libres. They never listened to one another; they were preoccupied with waiting for their turn. And I’d have to stay up and clear out the living room after they went soddenly to bed—sodden but not too far gone to lose their conceit. And then all day I’d cook and wash the dishes and chop the ice and weed the garden and type my husband’s poems and quarrel with him. I had met Theron Maybank in Adams, Colorado, five years earlier at a writers’ conference at Neville University, where, as a graduate student, I was serving on the arrangements committee. Theron had left his native Boston for his first trip West in order to meet the famous and reclusive American poet Fitzhugh Burr, who had agreed to make a rare public appearance on the campus. I found Theron’s brilliant talk and dark good looks somehow reminiscent of the young Nathaniel Hawthorne. We were married in Adams a few weeks after the conference ended, and left one week later for Baton Rouge.

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