San Diego You have to kiss a lot of toads before you find a handsome prince... Anyone can be passionate, but it takes real lovers to be silly... If a relationship is to evolve, it must go through a series of endings. Such is the wisdom served up in sweet, gooey heaps at San Diego Romance (www.sandiegorsomance. com), a local matchmaking website that also editorializes on love and its thorns. In its search for the perfect articulation of what romance is, the site's editors recently turned to the city's self-proclaimed sage on the subject -- none other than Lord Staniforth, who calls himself "San Diego's Finest Poet." Some of Mr. -- excuse me, Lord Staniforth's poems and musings on love are currently featured at the site. Insightful though they are, they left me with a few nagging questions. What, for example, is a lord doing in San Diego? And is he really the best poet in town?
I managed to track down this elusive literary figure and tease out some of his secrets. Following are excerpts from our correspondence.
Q: I know that you have said that you would "rather remain a mystery, an essential part of a romantic." But what can you tell me about your background? Where are you from, how old are you?
A: There are many things which make a man, least of all his age. The places he has roamed, the women he has loved, the enemies he has fought -- and that's not just the physical -- the mates that would make sacrifices for him, the family who has abandoned or loved him -- these things build character. Years are only a form of measurement for a life but account for nothing at the end of that life.
You are right, I would rather remain a mystery. In other words, I would rather live through my poetry. My poetry is my life. I can say that I have spent most of my life in England. I lived in several places including London. I have just moved to San Diego from a place called Lone Pine. I spent four years there wandering in the wilderness...though, unlike Christ, I had a meal or two and found some temptations overwhelming.
Q: Staniforth sounds like a very distinguished name. Can you say anything about its genealogy?
A: Yeah, "Staniforth" is a northern derivation of the southern name "stanford." It means "dweller by a stony ford." "Ford," as you know, is a crossing on a river. Perhaps one of my ancestors built his estate by a stony ford.
Q: Excuse my ignorance, but what exactly is a lord?
A: It's hard to say, just about anyone with a title of some sort or other. The word has changed in meaning over the years. Vaguely it is someone who is a member of the House of Lords, the upper house in the British parliament -- though the great Lord Byron and other well-known lords never set foot in it. It serves as a sort of superior court where appeals of the highest order are made but insists in keeping its paws in other matters such as selling the country to Europe. A long time ago, lords used to be bishops, earls, dukes, or barons, but the bishops have long since been ousted. Now it's only people with a title, or people awarded for some obscure thing they've done for the country. Oddly enough, lords are called "life peers."
Q: Are you in fact a Lord?
Q: You have a new book of poems coming out, called Dormancy and Deliverance. Tell me about it.
A: Most of them have been written over the last year, though I did pluck a few from my youth. A theme does unite them...a theme that shifts in feeling. I begin with my poetry that is of a darker nature...a world devoid of romance. I call this "the dormant age" -- an age without affection, the key to romance. This world was often the reflection of a relationship that lacked affection itself. A dormant volcano is cold rock with an empty interior. Understand?
There is one poem that springs to mind, "The Amorous Abortion," a poem in which the spiritual heart is ripped out and the romantic in me dies. At such times, when affection was lacking, I have wanted to tear the romantic from within. I wished there were some sort of clinic that dealt with that. I never could. It is a natural part of me that cannot be removed. I would be characterless without it.
This leads to the next section of my book, "Hope Poems." These are the poems of strength. If one lives for heart, then that heart is his strength in times when there is little else. The heart is willing to fight when there is no ground to fight on. The heart is willing to long for passion when there is no feeling to be found. Rationale is as useless as a grain of sand when one longs for an oasis. These poems fight and long for something beyond.
Then there is "deliverance," those goose-pimpling moments which make life seem an hors d'oeuvre for something brilliant when we die...perhaps a heaven. I choose the word deliverance because there are two meanings (and I don't mean surrender). Deliver means "to set free" and "the utterance of words." In these poems, words describe moments of liberation. There are poems in this section where the sight of a lover, an angelic landscape and so on have liberated the heart to the point where words just fall on the page. It is that explosion of feeling, like that of a volcano, which most of us secretly long for!
Q: You call yourself a "romantic," which is a label that means a lot of things to a lot of people. What exactly do you mean by it?
A: Quite simply, a true romantic is someone who lives and would die for the heart. You're right, there have been many appellations over the last 200 years...for instance, the romantics of the early 19th Century were absorbed by the mythology of the dark ages. Romance these days is strictly associated with the feeling between two lovers. I merit both, though I don't consider one-night stands to be romantic, that's dragging a beautiful word through the gutter. It should be something more lasting than that!