Tuesday, March 07, 2006

William Stafford

My friend Inge reminded me this week what a great poet William Stafford is. He gives people like me hope because his poems were first published when he was in his late 40s. He was born in Kansas but moved to Oregon, where he wrote this poem. I lived in Oregon and California, and I can attest to the mountains being there one day, and not the next. In fact the day I left Oregon, there had been an ice storm, and every twig was encased in ice, AND there was fog. It was like a fairyland. But then, of course, the poetic perspective makes it even more beautiful, as Stafford shows. As Donald Hall wrote, Stafford's "ordinariness doth tease us out of thought; while we are thoughtless, the second language of poetry speaks to us."

"Mountain Frost" Photo free for any use from

A Valley Like This

Sometimes you look at an empty valley like this,
and suddenly the air is filled with snow.
That is the way the whole world happened
"there was nothing, and then"

But maybe some time you will look out and even
the mountains are gone, the world become nothing
again. What can a person do to help
bring back the world?

We have to watch it and then look at each other.
Together we hold it close and carefully
save it, like a bubble that can disappear
if we don't watch out.

Please think about this as you go on. Breathe on the world.
Hold out your hands to it. When mornings and evenings
roll along, watch how they open and close, how they
invite you to the long party that your life is.


dreamwalker said...

That is a wonderful poem. I have now requested a book on his poetry from the library :) They have only one in the whole North Shore library system comprising 7 libraries!

I love mountains, prefer them to the sea - and end up living on an island..go figure :) Not that we don't have mountains, but just not in my backyard.

Ruth said...

dw: I believe you will enjoy more poems by WS. I need to read more of his stuff, because I think there is a kindred spirit there. He served as a conscientious objector in WWII in AZ and CA.

I love both mountains and sea. What's your island?

dreamwalker said...

I live in Auckland, New Zealand. Originally from Africa - Cape Town. I really love it here though, it's so green, clean and peaceful.

Ginnie said...

What a wonderful poem is right! And what a precious face on that man! I would love to read more of him as well.

And some day wouldn't it be so fun to go see DW on her island in the sea! I think of NZ as a magical place where the LOTR could show up at any minute :) Green, clean and peaceful also sounds pretty magical.

Ruth said...

You are fortunate, DW. Yes, I would love to visit NZ someday.

Ginnie and DW, it would be fun to read some WS together. DW, what book did you order from the library? Maybe we could each locate the book and talk about his poems. Ginnie, do you have access to a library/bookstore there?

Ginnie said...

Bookstores, yes. Library? I have no clue where one is, especially with books in English. Guess I'll have to wait till after the 18th. However, I just Googled William Stafford poetry and here are 17 of them! That would be a start, right!

Ruth said...

Yes, that's a nice site. And that is a nice start. Perhaps email would be the way to communicate about them?

Ginnie said...

Maybe, Ruth. I'll let you start that "roll" since you've got more of a schedule to keep up with....

rachel said...

Woah! That was powerful! Tears and all!

dreamwalker said...

I, too, found that site and bookmarked it. I haven't had time to go over it yet. The book I ordered hasn't arrived yet either.
Another good site is Friends of William Stafford

Ruth said...

DW: Yes, I love that site, and the inspiration to join and pass on the poetry thing. Still haven't done joined yet . . .