All over the world this year, people are celebrating of the 100th anniversary of the birth of poet William Stafford (January 17, 1914 – August 28, 1993) because nobody else can do this:
On a frozen pond a mile north of Liberal
almost sixty years ago I skated wild circles
while a strange pale sun went down.
A scattering of dry brown reeds cluttered
the ice at one end of the pond, and a fitful
breeze ghosted little surface eddies of snow.
No house was in sight, no tree, only
the arched wide surface of the earth
holding the pond and me under the sky.
I would go home, confront all my years, the tangled
events to come, and never know more than I did
that evening waving my arms in the lemon-colored light.
“One Evening” appears in “The Way It Is” (Graywolf Press; 1998)
No other poet reveals depth so simply. While poets today are content to be obscure as a mark of brilliance, Stafford takes you to new places in a way that helps you see them too. Many readers have said that after finishing a Stafford poem, they feel like they have a new best friend.
Every writer can learn from him. You too. Stafford’s writing draws praise from every part of the publishing world. He demonstrates how writing is a method of perception. He rose each morning to write a complete poem. Everyday. He reached deeper and deeper into the natural world to create his distinctive voice. He combined human, life, and insight. Readers often comment on the spiritual in his poems. But look again at the words. He does not mention anything spiritual. He shows it to you in your mind.
Stafford sees the universe in each particular. His voice — tone, topic, pace — are distinct and unique, just like each one of his scenes. He skates not on any frozen pond, but on the pond a mile north of Liberal.
William Stafford makes my life better. Everyday.
You’ll find plenty of biography and criticism with a web search. It’s worth your time.
More on the 100th birthday celebrations: http://stafford100.org/
More poems: http://www.williamstafford.org/spoems/index.html
The title refers to a product of nature, bread, called “the staff of life.”