Poetry Friday: Old Dog by William Stafford

I returned late from visiting my uncle in Florida. This week, I share one of my favorite poems by William Stafford.

Old Dog

Toward the last in the morning she could not
get up, even when I rattled her pan.
I helped her into the yard, but she stumbled
and fell. I knew it was time.

The last night a mist drifted over the fields.
In the morning she would not raise her head–
the far, clear mountains we had walked
surged back to mind.

We looked a slow bargain: our days together
were the ones we had already had.
I gave her something the vet had given,
and patted her still, a good last friend.

– William Stafford, from Someday, Maybe

Poetry Friday is held at The Opposite of Indifference. Tabatha is thinking ahead about National Poetry Month.

Happy Reading.

Poetry Friday: Why I Am Happy

Last week, my plan was to attend a William Stafford event but the water main at our house decided to burst. Thus, our weekend was spent at our daughter’s house. Oldest grandgirl was over the moon.
I found this poem in the local newspaper with details about events. It’s lovely. Maybe next year I will get to an event.

Why I Am Happy

Now has come, an easy time. I let it
roll. There is a lake somewhere
so blue and far nobody owns it.
A wind comes by and a willow listens
I hear all this, every summer. I laugh
and cry for every turn of the world,
its terribly cold, innocent spin.
That lake stays blue and free; it goes
on and on.
And I know where it is.

— William Stafford

Poetry Friday is held at HERE.


Happy reading.

Poetry Friday: Notice What This Poem Is Not Doing

On Wednesday, I interviewed Kim Stafford. That link is HERE.

Here’s another great poem by this fabulous poet.

Notice What This Poem Is Not Doing
by William Stafford

The light along the hills in the morning
comes down slowly, naming the trees
white, then coasting the ground for stones to nominate.

Notice what this poem is not doing.

A house, a house, a barn, the old
quarry, where the river shrugs–
how much of this place is yours?

Notice what this poem is not doing.

Every person gone has taken a stone
to hold, and catch the sun. The carving
says, “Not here, but called away.”

Notice what this poem is not doing.

The sun, the earth, the sky, all wait.
The crowns and redbirds talk. The light
along the hills has come, has found you.

Notice what this poem has not done.

I am attending a William Stafford celebration this weekend. Will report back next week.
Poetry Friday is at River No Water. Thank, Renee.

Happy reading.


Interview Wednesday: Five Questions About William Stafford

Today I am honored to have Kim Stafford answering five questions about his father, William Stafford. Kim has been instrumental in the preservation of his father’s writing. He is currently the Northwest Writing Institute, which I had the privilege in attending the summer institute in 1994.

MsMac: How did the cultural and physical landscape of the northwest influence your father’s work?
: William Stafford was born in Kansas, and the prairie was always his ideal landscape—lots of sky, and few obstacles to the long view. He once said that “Oregon’s alright—except the mountains and the trees get in the way of the scenery.” If you look at his poems, though, two very different kinds of landscape appear: the wild (forest, mountains, deserts, rivers, storms, nights, lonely outposts) and the suburban (neighbors, daily routines, local news, human connections like family and friends).

MsMac:Tell a story that defines your father’s role as a parent.
: We were driving somewhere. He started telling a story he had found in a novel, an old one—he couldn’t remember the title. The main character really wanted something. I can’t remember what it was, perhaps a partner, a kind of success. But he did not get what he wanted. The story went on, many detours, much wandering. Eventually, by unanticipated means, the main character achieved his goal. “Life can be like that,” my father said. Only much later did I suspect he made the whole thing up to teach me patience with the ways of destiny.

MsMac: What stance would/did your father use when working with children?
: He had a proverb: “Nothing’s too bad for the kiddies.” This meant the kids will get along one way or another. Of course, he loved us. He was devoted and engaged. But this love was not expressed by extravagance.

MsMac:Whenever I get stuck in my writing, I think about how your dad would give himself permission to “lower the standards.” Do you have a quote of his that you come back to again and again?
: Someone once asked my father, “What is your favorite thing you ever wrote?” His first response: “I love all my children.” But then he added, “I would trade everything I’ve ever written for the next thing.” To me, this says that loyalty to the next adventure of writing is more important than any kind of “success.” Real success is to sustain the sense of free and entrancing exploration of what lies ahead in writing.

MsMac: What do you notice as you look back on your father’s life?
: I have written a book in answer to this question: Early Morning: Remembering My Father, William Stafford. He was by turns gregarious (teacher, friend, “life of the party”) and solitary (rising before dawn, writing alone daily, “the wanderer”). The thread that bound this variety was his attention to what he called “seeking,” which included close engagement with human life, and also devotion to something beyond.

MsMac: How has your father continued to live on?
: My father is gone, but he left word…left words…left 20,000 poems, and a legacy of welcome to everyone who wishes to try the way of the writer.

Thank you, Kim. By the way, readers, I highly encourage you to explore Kim’s work as well. Go explore “what lies ahead in writing”.


Poetry Friday: A Month of William Stafford

It’s January and I once again dedicate this month to William Stafford. It’s going to be a great month.
Return next Wednesday, as I have an interview with Kim Stafford, his son. But for today “An Oregon Message.”

An Oregon Message

When we first moved here, pulled
the trees in around us, curled
our backs to the wind, no one
had ever hit the moon—no one.
Now our trees are safer than the stars,
and only other people’s neglect
is our precious and abiding shell,
pierced by meteors, radar, and the telephone.

From our snug place we shout
religiously for attention, in order to hide:
only silence or evasion will bring
dangerous notice, the hovering hawk
of the state, or the sudden quiet stare
and fatal estimate of an alerted neighbor.

This message we smuggle out in
its plain cover, to be opened
quietly: Friends everywhere—
we are alive! Those moon rockets
have missed millions of secret
places! Best wishes.

Burn this.
William Stafford

A great place to see William Stafford’s revisions of many poems is at the William Stafford Archives

Poetry Friday is being held at Radio, Rhythm, and Rhyme. A big welcome to Matt, who is hosting his first ever Poetry Friday.

Happy Reading.


It’s Here: 2012 CYBILS’ Poetry Finalists

Happy New Year. The best time of the year.
Thanks to
Mary Lee Hahn
Irene Latham
Carol Wilcox
Misti Tidman
Anastasia Suen
Tricia Stohr-Hunt

The panelists discussed for a long time and reached this list. There were SO many great titles this year. These are the stellar seven.The other categories can be found HERE.

UnBEElievables: Honeybee Poems and Paintings
by Douglas Florian

Florian is back with paintings, poetry and prose (yes, facts!) about bees. In these fourteen poems, young readers will see life from a bee’s perspective: “All day we bees/ Just buzz and buzz/ That’s what we duzz/ And duzz and duzz.” The prose facts accompanying this poem explain why bees sound like they are buzzing: A bee’s wings move so rapidly, it makes “the air around them … vibrate.”

Each page turn reveals a new facet of a bee’s life with art made from gouache, colored pencils, and collage on paper bags. We see a bee’s body up close, learn about the roles of each member of the hive, and their work: “I’m a nectar collector./ Make wax to the max.”

How bees fit into our everyday world is shown, as is the sad modern day reality of Colony Collapse Disorder. The back of the book has a “BEEbliography” of books and websites where young readers can find additional information about bees. There is so much to love in this fun and well-constructed book. Florian’s poetry is completely accessible to children, and the bits of information are equally well-written at a kid-level.

Nominated by Mary Ann Scheuer

In the Sea
By David Elliott

From the magic of starfish shining “in a sky of sand” to the wonder of orca’s “black-and-white tuxedo,” David Elliott becomes undersea explorer in In the Sea, a companion volume to On the Farm and In the Wild, with Holly Meade again stunning readers with her gorgeous woodcuts.

This collection introduces the youngest readers to the beauty and mystery of the sea. We meet familiar creatures like the dolphin, “an acrobat with fins” and perhaps less familiar ones like the chambered nautilus, “a staircase with no end.” Most poems are four lines or less; all are easily consumed and digested. In so few words Elliott provides a freshness to this subject matter with an abundance of simple but astonishing analogies. These poems provide the most basic of facts, such as how anemones “Gotta lotta zing!” and that the clownfish is “anemone’s maid.” Readers will especially appreciate Elliott’s brevity and humor. A favorite spread contains four one-word poems, which together become a larger poem complete with the most delightful rhyme.

This celebration of ocean life offers readers of all ages a safe (dry!), delightful dive into the depths of the sea.

Nominated by Kara Schaff Dean

Lies, Knives, and Girls in Red Dresses
By Ron Koertge

“Do you want to sleep? Find another storyteller,” Koertge tells readers in the introduction. NOT for the faint of heart or those raised on sweet happily ever after fairy tales, LIVES, KNIVES, AND GIRLS IN RED DRESSES, is a collection of 23 free verse poems that retell both familiar and more obscure tales. It is our only finalist that is specifically for YA readers.
Andrea Dezsö’s digital paper cuts are finely detailed and beautifully complement the tone of the text, though some are even more gruesome than the poems. Twisted, edgy, dark, and violent, yet cleverly told from the perspective of both central and secondary characters (Little Red Riding Hood, the Princess from the Princess and the Pea, the Beast from Beauty and the Beast, the Ugly Duckling, and others), Koertge re-imagines their stories in a most provocative manner.

Nominated by Cath in the Hat

Last Laughs: Animal Epitaphs
by J. Patrick Lewis and Jane Yolen
Be forewarned: the humor in these poems is dark! The pictures are gruesome and the animals in the book meet untimely and horrible deaths…but at the same time, to the right reader (mostly boys, to be honest), this is a very funny book.

The poems are predominantly short and cleverly punny, containing a surprise factor that rewards the reader with snorts of laughter. These epitaphs were meant, as the title of the book points out, to provide one last laugh.


When le left,
he didn’t put up
a big stink.
(© Jane Yolen)


Here lies a moth
without a name,
who lived by the fire
and died by the flame.
(© J. Patrick Lewis)

Nominated by Tasha

by Laura Purdie Salas

In a world where ereaders are becoming more and more popular, BookSpeak pays homage to the physical book. Twenty-one poems explore the magic of books and everything about them cover to cover.
These well crafted poems include literary allusions such as a frightened dog hanging on to a cliff with fish infested waters below, saying ” Please, author, write/ sequel quick” or a in the poem with three voices; The Beginning and The End comfort The Middle. And have you wondered what goes on when the lights go off in a bookstore? Read “Lights Out in the Bookstore” to find out about the raucous adventures of the shelves.

Josee Bisaillon’s mixed media illustrations compliment the whimsical, wacky and just plain fun text.
The committee agreed that like the final lines of last poem
“I am not so much
The End
As I am an
Invitation back
to the beginning.”
readers will return to the beginning and read the book again and again.

Nominated by Katie Fitzgerald

National Geographic Book of Animal Poetry: 200 Poems with Photographs That Squeak, Soar, and Roar!
By National Geographic Children’s Books

There’s a whole lot of squeaking, and soaring and roaring going on in NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC’s BOOK OF ANIMAL POETRY: 200 poems with photographs that Squeak, Soar, and Roar. J. Patrick Lewis, America’s Children’s Poet Laureate, has collected over 200 animal poems—including classics from poets like Emily Dickinson, Robert Frost, Rudyard Kipling, and Alfred Lord Tennyson to more modern poets such as Kristine O’Connell George, Jack Prelutsky, Valerie Worth, and Jane Yolen.
Readers, both adults and children, will make many trips through this book, some to savor the poetry, but probably just as many to enjoy the gorgeous, full-color, National Geographic photographs adorning each page. End material includes a two-page spread about writing animal poems, and another two-page bibliography or poetry books sorted by genre. Four different indexes- title, first line, author, and subject- ensure that readers will quickly find the poems they love.

The NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC BOOK OF ANIMAL POETRY is a magnet that will pull even the most reluctant reader into the world of poetry.

Nominated by: Joanna Marple

Water Sings Blue: Ocean Poems
By Kate Coombs

In Water Sings Blue, poet Kate Coombs invites readers to sail away, if just for a few moments, and ponder the wonders of the ocean. From the sandy beaches and tide pools to the creatures lurking in the depths, Coombs transports readers to a watery world and displays for them the intricacy of ocean flora and fauna. The poems exhibit Coombs’ knowledge of and enthusiasm for her subject matter, as well as a mastery of wordcraft.

Many of the poems contain touches of wry humor. “Seagulls” compares gulls to beagles: “And when seagulls take wing, / they become a new thing, / attaining some dignity. / But beagles are round / and remain on the ground, / pretty much dignity-free.”

The accompanying illustrations by Meilo So perfectly highlight the mysterious beauty of the book’s subject matter. So’s delicate watercolors bring to life soaring seabirds, spiny urchins, and trailing jellyfish tentacles. As the book draws to a close, the ocean herself says a haunting goodbye which will echo in the reader’s mind long after the book is closed:
“I was here,
wasss h e r e
wasssss h e r e . . .”

Nominated by Laurie Purdie Salas