He was born in Kansas and received a B.A. from the University of Kansas in 1937. A pacifist, he declared himself a conscientious objector and did forestry and soil conservation work during World War II. His first major collection of poetry, Traveling Through the Dark, wasn’t published until he was 48. It won the National Book Award for Poetry in 1963.
when I met my muse
I glanced at her and took my glasses
off–they were still singing. They buzzed
like a locust on the coffee table and then
ceased. Her voice belled forth, and the
sunlight bent. I felt the ceiling arch, and
knew that nails up there took a new grip
on whatever they touched. “I am your own
way of looking at things,” she said. “When
you allow me to live with you, every
glance at the world around you will be
a sort of salvation.” And I took her hand.
Got up on a cool morning. Leaned out a window.
No cloud, no wind. Air that flowers held
for awhile. Some dove somewhere.
Been on probation most of my life. And
the rest of my life been condemned. So these moments
count for a lot–peace, you know.
Let the bucket of memory down into the well,
bring it up. Cool, cool minutes. No one
stirring, no plans. Just being there.
This is what the whole thing is about.
Stafford’s poems are often deceptively simple. Like Robert Frost’s, however, they reveal a distinctive and complex vision upon closer examination. Among his best-known books are The Rescued Year (1966), Stories That Could Be True: New and Collected Poems (1977), Writing the Australian Crawl: Views on the Writer’s Vocation (1978), and An Oregon Message (1987).
- The Way It Is: New and Selected Poems (wordwabbit.wordpress.com)