William Stafford: Inviting the Quiet

way it isb/w stafford

James Dickey considered William Stafford (1914-1993) a “born poet”, whose “natural mode of speech is a gentle, mystical, half-mocking and highly personal daydreaming about the western United States.”

For that reason alone, William Stafford has gained a shelf to himself at the Land Library. But we also have a personal affection for a poet who could write lines like these:

the greatest ownership of all is to look around and understand.

Your job is to find out what the world is trying to be.
(Two inspiring lines for any institution devoted to learning, and to the appreciation of the world as it is!)

We also like Stephen Corey’s words: “Stafford’s dogged faith in the teaching power of nature has been matched by his persistent demand for a plain spoken poetry.” The following poem makes Corey’s case:


My father could hear a little animal step,
or a moth in the dark against the screen,
and every far sound called the listening out
into places where the rest of us had never been.

More spoke to him from the soft wild night
than came to our porch for us on the wind;
we would watch him look up and his face go
till the walls of the world flared, widened.

My father heard so much that we still stand
inviting the quiet by turning the face,
waiting for a time when something in the night
will touch us too from that other place.

–William Stafford

To read more of William Stafford’s poetry, a great place to start is The Way It Is: New & Selected Poems (pictured above). And here’s just a few more volumes from the Land Library’s poetry collection:

rescued yearoregon messageeven in quiet
The Rescued Year, An Oregon Message, Even in Quiet Places

For even more on William Stafford, here’s two excellent links:

The Poetry Foundation

William Stafford Archives


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s