“If you have been wondering where the articulable, readable poems have
gone in the last third of the 20th century,” claims reviewer Victor
Howard, “you might start with William Stafford.” Never mind that his
dependent clause is one of the lamest of straw-man arguments, he does
have a point that for plain-spokenness–which is not the same as
simpleness–Stafford’s your man. He died in 1993. He grew up in houses
always on the edge of town, over the highway, neither rural nor urban,
and his poetic voice is that of a wanderer, an accidental seeker who
observes the things in his path and wonders why they are there, and
why they are. And then he has a handful of poems that directly address
reading, writing, and studying poetry, among them this one. Enjoy.
THE TROUBLE WITH READING
When a goat likes a book, the whole book is gone,
and the meaning has to go find an author again.
But when we read, it’s just print–deciphering,
like frost on a window: we learn the meaning
but lose what the frost is, and all that world
pressed so desperately behind.
So some time let’s discover how the ink
feels, to be clutching all that eternity onto
page after page. But maybe it is better not
to know; ignorance, that wide country,
rewards you just to accept it. You plunge;
it holds you. And you have become a rich darkness.