A.E. Stallings
(USA, 1968)   
A.E. Stallings

A.E. (Alicia) Stallings studied classics in Athens, Georgia and has lived since 1999 in Athens, Greece. She has published two books of poetry, Archaic Smile (1999), which won the Richard Wilbur Award, and Hapax (2000). Her verse translation of Lucretius (in rhyming fourteeners!), The Nature of Things, was published by Penguin Classics in 2007. She lives with her husband, John Psaropoulos, editor of the Athens News, and their small argonaut, Jason.

She has been compared to W.B. Yeats, Richard Wilbur and Robert Frost. Stallings’s keen eye for the mechanical details in poetry is just one of the reasons that she stands out among her peers. ‘Fairy-Tale Logic’ uses a distinct “a, b, b, a” rhyme scheme in the first stanza, and transitions to “a, a, b, b, a, a” in the last, creating a playful rhythm that goes well with the fantastical images that she uses: “the chin hairs of a man-eating goat”, “a dragon”, “an invisible cloak”, “the language of snakes”. It’s also clear that she enjoys writing a narrative: “Every night, we couldn’t sleep./ Our upstairs neighbors had to keep/ Dropping something down the hall—/ A barbell or a bowling ball,” begins ‘Recitative’.

Besides these characteristics, what jumps out is her use of metaphor. ‘The Catch’ describes a marital conflict in terms of a “fish” that “rises . . . / Out of the deep”. In ‘Containment,’ she likens herself to “a small child/ With too much water in a real glass/ Clasped in two hands, across a space as vast/ As living rooms”. ‘Fishing’ describes a father teaching his daughter “To cast towards shadows, where the sunlight fails/ And fishes settle in the undergrowth”. When there’s a tug on the line, “how all else pales/ Beside the bright-dark struggle, the rainbow wroth,/ Life and death weighed in the shining scales”.

© poetryfoundation.org


Archaic Smile
, University of Evansville Press, Evansville, 1999
, TriQuarterly, Evanston, 2006
The Nature of Things
, Penguin, New York, 2007


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