Tag Archives: William Stafford

Dec. 20, 2010: THE TROUBLE WITH READING (William Stafford)

“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.
-ed.

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.

-1970

Monday’s Verse 5-14-07

All,

this one is for all those out there with one last major scary hurdle
to jump… on their various ways to great things. -ed.

FOR MY YOUNG FRIENDS WHO ARE AFRAID

There is a country to cross you will
find in the corner of your eye, in
the quick slip of your foot—air far
down, a snap that might have caught.
And maybe for you, for me, a high, passing
voice that finds its way by being
afraid. That country is there, for us,
carried as it is crossed. What you fear
will not go away: it will take you into
yourself and bless you and keep you.
That’s the world, and we all live there.

—William Stafford