William Burford, March 1950

William Burford was an American modernist poet who now is most often described by the Internet as the friend of the more renowned poet James Merrill. The poet appeared in Poetry Magazine several times between 1949 and 1953. Based on the Poetry Foundation’s archives, twenty of his poems were published alongside poets who are better remembered today, including William Carlos Williams and E. E. Cummings. According to Poets & Writers, Burford published two books of poetry: A World in 1962 and A Beginning in 1968. He and his wife, the obscure novelist Lolah Burforf, lived and wrote in Texas.

It is hard to say why Burford has been left in the past. His style and form are simple and typical for the day, often employing a strict form of repeating tercets or quatrains in conjunction with musically rendered free verse. His poem “A History,” which was published by Poetry Magazine in March of 1950, comprised of three quintains, is filled with interesting redactions that are progressed by a varying end-rhyme. In the same issue, Burford’s more abstract poem “Four Changes of World” boasts a skill for abstraction and nature imagery. Neither poem appears to be, through a modern vantage point, tasteless or distinctly forgettable. Perhaps it was just his limited exposure. Maybe four years of contribution is not enough participation for the Poetry Foundation to include a hyperlink beneath your name leading to a poet’s biography, and two published books of poetry do not demand a Wikipedia page. Or maybe Texan and Western writers are marginalized by the Modern literary canon. However, more could still come from Burford; according to Poets & Writers’ Directory of Writers, Burford still lives in Fort Worth, TX, and he has even shared his phone number to connect with others.

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