Poet William Stafford (1914-1993) was born and raised in the American Midwest (Kansas) and in his adult life lived in the American West (Oregon). Reflecting an awareness of where he lived, his first book of poetry is entitled West of Your City (1960). Stafford’s mode of language is considered, for the most part, straightforward and his poems readable.
It was only recently that I was introduced to Stafford and his work. To critics and those knowledgeable about literary culture, he has the distinction of being one of the more widely known poets in the U.S., having had his poems appear over the years in popular magazines (Reader’s Digest, for example). While Stafford often focuses on nature and this is why it is believed his poems are considered accessible, his imagination and mystical views also give his work a deeper context.
Climbing Along the River
Willows never forget how it feels
to be young.
Do you remember where you came from?
Even the upper end of the river
Believes in the ocean.
Exactly at midnight
Yesterday signs away.
What I believe is,
All animals have one soul.
Over the land they love
They crisscross forever.
— William Stafford (from The Way It Is: New and Selected Poems, 1998)
Spilling themselves in the sun bluebirds
wing-mention their names all day. If everything
told so clear a life, maybe the sky would
come, maybe heaven; maybe appearance and
truth would be the same. Maybe whatever seems
to be so, we should speak so from our souls,
never afraid, “Light” when it comes,
“Dark” when it goes away.
–William Stafford (An Oregon Message, 1987)