Felix Stefanile is a poet who started out life
very far from Indiana. He was born in Long Island, New York,
and lived there until the age of forty-one. He was raised
in a large metropolian area next to the ocean, giving him
a different point of view compared to the native poets who
were raised around the rolling fields and forests of Indiana.
When he moved to Indiana to teach at Purdue University in
1961, the change of living environment was something he comments
on in his poetry, specifically the poem "Atlantis."
In this passage from
"Atlantis," in the collection Indiana,
Indiana—A Local Reader, Stefanile recounts his
thoughts and feelings when he was first moving from Long Island
Then sliding down Ohio's Punch-bowl, toward
the Indiana corn fields, watched them wave;
my new prairie
home made me feel brave.
And never guessed, till now, from what dark hoard
this land locked moon that blinds me can afford
this light I lust, the sea I never heard.
Landlubber’s luck, without a tide to
with money in my jeans, hole in my head,
I spy on strangers of squat, farmers tread,
and wonder, for the years, how many seas
it took to sail their dreams to this dry place. (79)
The poem describes Stefanile's feelings about
moving to a part of the country that does not have the ocean
nearby. He admires the prairie setting, and it fills him with
a sensation of bravery, but he does miss the sea.
Stefanile does not overlook
the splendor of Indiana's natural environment, however, despite
his reliance on the ocean as a measure for beauty. In “A
Picnic in Brown County,
Indiana” he takes a trip out to the country
and responds to the revitalizing features of the agricultural
In Brown County,
as rusty as legend,
past a hill as round as my girl’s behind
and a goose on top of the turnpike sign,
that old farmer, the sun
is walking towards his fields.
his Sabbath solitudes:
For that man’s green truce
with the ribs of a boat
lurching toward morning
heraldic emblems :
the crucified crow,
the corn in its scabbard,
the couchant, well fed mongrel.
what a hospital fury burns in me
to breathe and be new:
I smell, like smoke on the wind
To turn home now, back to my clutter,
A honk of the horn. (Indiana, Indiana 85-86)
He comes to the country as a discoverer seeing
everything for the first time, as a pretentious Columbus.
He finds what the sun has been hiding in his solitudes out
in the country, and wants the sun's rural world. He feels
the need to be fresh and new, like what he sees in the country:
Stefanile has other works
that touch briefly on nature. In his book, The
Dance at St. Gabriel’s, is “Midwest Fantasy,”
a poem that describes the changing from season to season in
the Midwest, especially Indiana color changes in the fall.
In one of his other books, A Fig Tree in America,
he mentions the agricultural area's scenery in “Back
Home in Indiana.”
Despite the fact that Stefanile lived much of
his life so far away from Indiana, he learned to have an appreciation
for the natural beauty of the state, as is evident in much
of his work.
Stefanile, Felix, Ed. Indiana,
Indiana—A Local Reader. West Lafayette: Sparrow,
---. The Dance at St. Gabriel's.
Brownsville, OR: Story Line Press, 1995.
---. A Fig Tree in America.
New Rochelle, NY: Elizabeth Press, 1970.
Image: The Dance
at St. Gabriel's. Brownsville, OR: Story Line Press,
1995. Back Cover.
Sample Poems from The Country of Absence
Poet: An Interview with Poet and Editor, Felix Stefanile