Poetry Friday: William Stafford


Thank you to  Violet at Violet Nesdoly | Poems for hosting Poetry Friday.

Throughout January in Oregon, one can find many celebrations honoring William Stafford born this month.

With the political climate and this day, I went to the files of Stafford in search of an appropriate poem to share. From Poetry Foundation:

Peace Walk

We wondered what our walk should mean,
taking that un-march quietly;
the sun stared at our signs— “Thou shalt not kill.”
Men by a tavern said, “Those foreigners . . .”
to a woman with a fur, who turned away—
like an elevator going down, their look at us.
Along a curb, their signs lined across,
a picket line stopped and stared
the whole width of the street, at ours: “Unfair.”
Above our heads the sound truck blared—
by the park, under the autumn trees—
it said that love could fill the atmosphere:
Occur, slow the other fallout, unseen,
on islands everywhere—fallout, falling
unheard. We held our poster up to shade our eyes.
At the end we just walked away;
no one was there to tell us where to leave the signs.
William Stafford, “Peace Walk” from The Way It Is: New and Selected Poems. Copyright © 1994 by William Stafford.
An interesting piece about this POEM.
Happy Friday.
Happy Poetry.

Poetry Friday: Ask Me: 100 Essential Poems


On this last day of January, here’s a selection from a new book, Ask Me: 100 Essential Poems by William Stafford, edited by Kim Stafford. Kim was asked by Graywolf Press to select one hundred essential poems for his father’s one hundredth birthday.


This image is from The Friends of William Stafford website. What a fabulous way to introduce a new generation of readers to William Stafford.


Poetry Friday is held at The Miss Rumphius Effect. Thanks, Trisha.

Happy Friday.
Happy Poetry.

Poetry Friday: That Certainty by Helen Frost

On Wednesday, I interviewed Helen Frost. Today I share her poem “That Certainty” which is included in the new anthology, A Ritual to Read to Each Other: Poems in Conversation with William Stafford.

That Certainty

People think they’re good because
somebody hit them when they weren’t.
They say Ya gotta teach em—
dogs or kids—how else they gonna learn?
I don’t answer, never have known how
to say No, you’d be good anyway.
I’m sure of it.

That certainty—I’m right,
you’re wrong—is what somebody
hit them with a long long time ago.

When I neither argue nor agree
they glance at me, then look away,
and back, and in that flash
before our talk moves on, I see
the child in that moment
just before the slap, the fist,
the tongue-lash taught them
they were bad, they had to learn
how to be good.
Helen Frost

Reprinted with permission of the author; copyright Pecan Grove Press, San Antonio, Texas, 2009.

This Sunday, January 17, at Powell’s Bookstore on Hawthorne, a celebration of William Stafford’s life and legacy and a launch book will be held. Kim Stafford with be there and will the Oregon Poet Laureate, Paulann Peterson.

Poetry Friday is held at Keri Recommends. Thanks, Keri.

Happy Friday. Happy poetry.

Poetry Friday: Celebrating William Stafford


Every January, I celebrate the fabulous work of a William Stafford. Born on January 17, 1914, it’s a centennial celebration. There is so many events here in Oregon. For today’s poem, I’m sharing

A Message from the Wanderer

Today outside your prison I stand
and rattle my walking stick: Prisoners, listen;
you have relatives outside. And there are
thousands of ways to escape.

Years ago I bent my skill to keep my
cell locked, had chains smuggled to me in pies,
and shouted my plans to jailers;
but always new plans occured to me,
or the new heavy locks bent hinges off,
or some stupid jailer would forget
and leave the keys.

Inside, I dreamed of constellations—
those feeding creatures outlined by stars,
their skeletons a darkness between jewels,
heroes that exist only where they are not.

Thus freedom always came nibbling my thought,
just as—often, in light, on the open hills—
you can pass an antelope and not know
and look back, and then—even before you see—
there is something wrong about the grass.
And then you see.

That’s the way everything in the world is waiting.

Now—these few more words, and then I’m
gone: Tell everyone just to remember
their names, and remind others, later, when we
find each other. Tell the little ones
to cry and then go to sleep, curled up
where they can. And if any of us get lost,
if any of us cannot come all the way—
remember: there will come a time when
all we have said and all we have hoped
will be all right.

There will be that form in the grass.

William Stafford, “A Message from the Wanderer” from The Way It Is: New & Selected Poems. Copyright © 1998 by William Stafford. Reprinted with the permission of Graywolf Press, St. Paul, Minnesota, http://www.graywolfpress.org.

You can listen to it at The Poetry Foundation

Next Wednesday, I will share a conversation between Helen Frost and I about William Stafford. Then next Friday, on his birthday, Helen is sharing her poem from the new anthology, A Ritual to Read To Each Other: Poems in Conversation with William Stafford in honor of the centenary of his birth.

Poetry Friday is hosted at Mainely Write today. thanks, Donna.