Poetry Friday: William Stafford

IMG_1077

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.
Advertisements

Poetry Friday: Ask Me: 100 Essential Poems

20140130-215354.jpg

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.

20140130-215403.jpg

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

20140130-220632.jpg

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

Happy Friday.
Happy Poetry.

Poetry Friday: Threads

20140123-215923.jpg

The month long celebration of the life and legacy of William Stafford continues. Last Sunday I attended the book launch for Ritual to Read to Each Other: Poems in Conversation with William Stafford. A Ritual to Read to Each Other: Poems in Conversation with William Stafford, published by Woodley Press. The collection doesn’t just offer poems in tribute but invites readers to write poems. This is a poem that I have worked on for several years based on a quote from Stafford.

“Only the golden string knows where it is going, the role for the writer or reader is one of following not imposing.”
 ~William Stafford

Threads

Discovered while cleaning out
at the remains of mother’s library.
One tucked in her yellowed yearbook pages.
A message jumped out-
describing a scene I did not know:
Mom-
roller-skating 
on the third floor of the dorm
Mom-
telling ghost stories
until the wee morning hours.

Graduated as a nurse.
Ready to serve her country,
she married instead.
Dusky blue threads, remnants of her bridal gown
slipped in the pages of her Catholic Bible.
Six months later, Mom and Dad
climbed aboard the Greyhound bus
and traveled west.

Settled into the place of sunshine,
orange groves,
and opportunity.
Together, they worked out 
the ups and downs
of married life 
beyond the whispers of family.
She tucked 
a baptismal dress thread into my first Bible,
Easter Sunday, 1953.
The air perfumed by orange blossoms.

These threads and others
tucked away-
her life – a puzzle.
I sort them
wondering how to weave them together.

~Jone Rush MacCulloch, copyright, 2014

Poetry Friday is hosted by Tara at A Teaching Life.

 

Happy Friday.
Happy Poetry.

Celebrate: Five Star Things About the Week

20131221-081747.jpg

 

It’s Saturday! That time to pause and reflect on the week.  So good to share with other at Ruth Ayres’ blog.

ONE

My conversation with Helen Frost, author of Salt and other wonderful poetry novels. She suggested that we exchange emails instead of the canned questions (which after several years of doing interviews in that way, I am up for something new.)  We discussed the extraordinary poet, William Stafford as centennial celebrations abound here in Oregon.  Her interview can be found HERE.

TWO

Helen shared her poem, “That Certainty” for Poetry Friday. It’s one of many in a new anthology, A Ritual to Read to Each Other: Poems in Conversation with William Stafford, published in conjunction for the Stafford centennial.

THREE

Progress is being made on the reorganizing of the series books in the library.  It’s tedious work because I want to ensure that it will assist my readers, especially the emerging ones.   It’s been a challenge to my philosophy that students should have free reign of what they check out in the library.  It the current educational environment, students are strongly encouraged to get a “just right” book meaning one at their level.  In February, my first graders will be allowed to check out two books if their parents wish because I want them to have the opportunity for free choice.  I believe that lessons are learned when you select books that you are interested in despite that it may be too difficult.

FOUR

Finding books at my public library to help fifth graders launch into a nonfiction writing unit based on the new Lucy Calkins Writing program.  One student in particular wanted to research the Donner Party.  We have little in nonfiction in this area as since our budgets have shrunk ( I used to have a $4500-$5000 budget and now I have $1000), it’s difficult to justify being anything that is not directly in concert with the curriculum.  Thank goodness the library had some titles on this topic for me to check out.

FIVE

Reading  Candice Fleming’s Oh, No! aloud to classes.  It’s a Washington Children’s Choice Picture Book Award nominee.  So much fun and engaging to read.

What are you celebrating?

 

Poetry Friday: That Certainty by Helen Frost

20140116-203129.jpg
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.
MsMac

In Conversation With Helen Frost

In Conversation with Helen Frost

Welcome to a new year. In December, I asked Helen Frost to do an interview for January focusing on the William Stafford centennial. We have emailed one another over the last few weeks about Oregon’s former Poet Laureate as we honor his legacy.

Jone: First of all Helen, I wish that we could be somewhere having tea, surrounded by William Stafford’s books as we discuss his legacy and influence upon us.

Helen: And I agree, talking over tea surrounded by books would be lovely. That was what I loved about our time at the Highlights workshop.

Jone: I’ve been thinking about Stafford since contacting you.  How to start, where to begin?  It’s funny but I actually didn’t know of him until after graduating from Lewis and Clark in 1974.  I think it’s possible I met Dorothy Stafford first because I taught in Lake Oswego as she did.  I know that I took at least one writing workshop from him.  And I remember Stafford talking about following the thread.

Helen: I have always loved what the two Williams–Stafford and Blake–say about the golden thread. Stafford finds the golden thread inside an image or idea and follows it into a poem, somehow carrying his readers along even when the trail is mysterious.

Here’s one of my favorites, of Stafford’s poems: “At the Un-National Monument along the Canadian Border”   http://www.poetryfoundation.org/poem/237528
I love the way he can turn too-easily-accepted things on their heads, or inside out, and invite us to look at them from a new angle. 

I first met William Stafford through his poetry, of course. I think the first time I heard him read was in the late 60’s at Syracuse University. A few years later, I wrote to him and he replied! That was very exciting to me. When I moved to Oregon in the late 80’s I met him on several occasions, at the home of mutual friends. I was active in the Lane Literary Guild, and one year we invited William and Kim Stafford to lead a workshop and give a reading together. What I especially remember about the workshop is that there were one or two people who brought very rough drafts, which, as one of the organizers, I found mildly embarrassing. How could someone present careless work to William Stafford and expect his careful response to it? But his response to every poem was thoughtful and generous. “What is the gift of this poem?” he would ask. We would find that there always was a gift, and through his gentle guidance, we could find it. 

Then, about a decade later, I received an award from the Poetry Society of America the same year that William Stafford received the prestigious William Carlos Williams award.  My mother attended the awards ceremony with me, and was most impressed when I greeted this honored poet by saying, “Hi, Bill.” I don’t think I said it with the intention of showing off to my mother, but in any case, “Bill Stafford” greeted me (and my mother) with characteristic warmth. There was something about him that cut through convention, and invited friendliness. 

Jone: Stafford does have a way to turn “turn-easily-accepted things on their heads, or inside-out” especially when it came to war.  

He’s such a master of observation of the ordinary: “Ode to Garlic” (http://poetrypill.blogspot.com/2012/03/ode-to-garlic.html) which reminded me of Naomi Shihab Nye’s “The Traveling Onion.” ( http://www.poets.org/viewmedia.php/prmMID/23310)

One could be amazed at the volume of poems Stafford wrote unless one is aware of his writing routine.  I am inspired by the way he would wake and begin the day writing.  To me that’s ideal but with the growing demands of school, I am learning to spend my lunch writing at school.  

Oh, to have been at that workshop with both Kim and his father. Your response reminds me about how I feel when students have shared their very rough drafts with visiting authors.  And Stafford, just a simple question about the poem being a gift. . It makes all the difference in the world.  What would the impact be on young writers if we asked simple, nudging questions?
How lucky your mother was to see you get your award along with meeting Bill.

In what ways does Bill continue to inspire you? 

Helen: I do think my life and work are influenced by William Stafford’s life and work, though something about the word “inspire” stops me a little short. I’m not quite sure why; maybe that hesitation itself comes to me through him, feels a little pretentious maybe. Let me think out loud here a bit–inspiration is breathing, right? I’m glad I’ve been able to breathe the same air with him, by being alive on the same planet at the same time, and by being in the same room with him, and with poetry, in a more literal way. But I’m not sure about being “inspired by” another person, as if they could tell (or teach) you how to breathe. 

One thing I remember him saying, though I don’t have the source, is that he wouldn’t want to think of his poems changing someone, that that would never be his motivation in writing. He asked how he would feel if someone entered a conversation with him saying, “I think I’ll try to change Bill today.” That makes me smile, and like so much of what he did and said, it relaxes me into my writing and into a certain way of being in the world. Trusting others and myself to be who we are without too much nudging. 

I guess that is a kind of inspiration, isn’t it? 

And yes, “Ode to Garlic” is all about this kind of strong and joyful humility.
Thanks for reminding me of that, and of Naomi’s poem which does sound Stafford-influenced. Lovely to think of these two poems in the same “poetry stew.”

Have you heard about the anthology in honor of the centenary of Stafford’s birth? A Ritual to Read to Each Other: Poems in Conversation with William Stafford
I have a poem in it that I’d be happy to share if you’d like. (Note to readers: Poetry Friday will feature this poem.)

Jone: I’d not considered the use of ‘inspire’ in that manner before, wow!  I think of all the times I have used the word.  Influenced is a more accurate choice.

Stafford’s lessons for me have been to observe the landscape of daily living in closer detail.  I read back through my interview with Kim Stafford last year.  His comments about his father support what you remember him saying about his poems.  

William Stafford always looked for what the the next writing exploration would bring him. His writing is so much about ‘trusting who we are without too much nudging’ as you suggest.

Have you visited the William Stafford Archives (http://www.williamstaffordarchives.org)? Such a fabulous resource.  Kim Stafford has an article, “Let’s Talk Recklessly” in which he explains that his father would encourage the polite talk to cease in exchange for talk that would require gossiping “freely about uncertainties and strange beliefs and lean forward and tumble into the liveliest possible interchange.”  If you could have been at the table with William Stafford during a ‘talk recklessly’ time, what might you have discussed with him?

Yes, I am anxious to get the new anthology, A Ritual to Read Together: Poems in Conversation with William Stafford.  Next Sunday, January 17, I am attending a celebration at Powell’s Bookstore on Hawthorne.  Kim Stafford with be there and will the Oregon Poet Laureate, Paulann Peterson.

Helen: I haven’t been to the Stafford archives yet, though I do hope to get there sometime in the next year or two. Just looking at the website is impressive!

Inspired…influenced..”in conversation with”–that is a good choice of words for the subtitle of that collection of poems that have been gathered around the Stafford centennial, don’t you think?

As it happens, I do recall a particular conversation with Stafford that I would categorize as “talking recklessly.” I’ll recount it here without mentioning names, though in the actual conversation we recklessly did talk about an actual person. I was young and not-yet-published, or very minimally published, and a one-on-one conversation with Stafford, in the safety of a friend’s home, brought up an experience that was troubling me: a workshop in which a famous poet had, I felt, used student poems as a vehicle to showcase his own wit and cleverness. He had been relatively easy on me, though I felt embarrassed by some things he had said about one of my poems, and I was having a hard time letting go of that. But what I found more troubling was that this poet had been unduly harsh to several people who seemed to me particularly vulnerable to criticism. Many people would have steered clear of such a conversation, and perhaps good manners should have dictated that we not discuss another poet like that, but Stafford drew me out, asking for details I really did want to offer. Then he said simply, “That’s not teaching.” Our conversation moved on, and I felt somehow eased of a burden. 

As for today, if I could talk with him now, yes, there are things I’d love to ask and share with him. But this is an online interview, which means that though I am talking with you on the surface, I am simultaneously talking with the whole world now and forevermore. I think this has altered our conversations somehow–the seeming intimacy of online exchanges, while necessarily holding back on private matters.. 

Jone: Thanks, Helen. I am not sure you could have stated any better how communication has been forever altered with the advent of social media. There’s a reckless conversation to have with Stafford: social media. I wish we had more time to virtually chat and I wish you could be in Oregon as we celebrate Stafford’s life and legacy. I am looking forward to sharing your poem Friday and seeing it in the book, Ritual to Read to Each Other: Poems in Conversation with William Stafford.

20140114-210220.jpghttp://www.facebook.com/woodleyanthology

Please be sure to return for Poetry Friday.

Poetry Friday: Celebrating William Stafford

20140109-213945.jpg

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
BY WILLIAM E. STAFFORD 1914–1993

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.