Poets | Bookstore | Poem of the Day | Top 40 | Search | Comments | Privacy
April 16th, 2014 - we have 234 poets, 8,025 poems and 103,948 comments.
Biography of William Stafford

William Stafford

William Stafford (1914 - 1993)

William Edgar Stafford (January 17, 1914 - August 28, 1993) was an American poet and noted pacifist, as well as the father of the poet and essayist Kim Stafford. A long-time resident of Oregon, he and his writings are sometimes identified with the Pacific Northwest.

Early Years

He was born in Hutchison, Kansas, the oldest of three children in a highly literate family. During the Depression, his family moved from town to town in any effort to find work for his father. Stafford helped contribute to family income by delivering newspapers, working in the sugar beet fields, raising vegetables, and working as an electrician's mate.

He graduated from high school in the town of Liberal in 1933. After attending junior college, he received a B.A. from the University of Kansas in 1937. He was drafted into the United States armed forces in 1941, while pursuing his master's degree at the University of Kansas, when he became a conscientious objector. As a registered pacifist, he performed alternative service from 1942 to 1946 in the civilian public service camps, which consisted of forestry and soil conservation work in Arkansas, California, and Illinois for $2.50 per week. While working in California in 1944, he met and he married Dororthy Hope Frantz with whom he later had four children.

He received his M.A. from the University of Kansas in 1947. His master's thesis, the prose memoir Down In My Heart, was published in 1948 and described his experience in the forest service camps. That same year he moved to Oregon to teach at Lewis and Clark College. In 1954, he received a Ph.D. from the University of Iowa.

Career as a Poet

One of the most striking features of his career is that he began publishing his poetry only later in life. His first major collection of poetry Travelling Through the Dark was published when he was forty-eight years old. It won the National Book Award the following year in 1963. The title poem is one of Stafford's most well known works. It describes an experience of encountering a recently killed doe on a mountain road. Before pushing the doe off into the canyon, the poet discovers that the doe was pregnant and the fawn inside the doe is still alive.

Stafford was known for his quiet daily ritual of writing and his focus on the ordinary. The gentle quotidian style of his poetry has been compared to Robert Frost. His poems are typically short, focusing on the earthy, accessible details appropriate to a specific locality. In a 1971 interview, Stafford said:

"I keep following this sort of hidden river of my life, you know, whatever the topic or impulse which comes, I follow it along trustingly. And I don't have any sense of its coming to a kind of crescendo, or of its petering out either. It is just going steadily along."

He was also a close friend and colloborator with the poet Robert Bly.

Despite his late start, he was a frequent contributor to magazines and anthologies and eventually published fifty-seven volumes of poetry. James Dickey called Stafford one of those poets "who pour out rivers of ink, all on good poems."

In 1970, he was named Consultant in Poetry to the Library of Congress, a position that is now known as Poet Laureate. In 1975, he was named Poet Laureate of Oregon. In 1980, he retired from Lewis and Clark College but continued to travel extensively and give public readings of his poetry. In 1992, he won the Western States Book Award for lifetime achievement in poetry.

He died in Lake Oswego, Oregon on August 28, 1993, having written a poem that morning containing the line "Be ready for what God sends." His works are archived at the Northwest Writing Institute at Lewis and Clark College.


Biography by: This article is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License and uses material adapted in whole or in part from the Wikipedia article on William Stafford.


20 Poems written by William Stafford

The poems are by default sorted according to volume, but you can also choose to sort them alphabetically or by page views.

Volume | Alphabetically | [Page Views] | Comments | First Lines


Page ViewsPoemComments
15344 Notice What This Poem Is Not Doing Comments and analysis of Notice What This Poem Is Not Doing by William Stafford 103 Comments
7543 This Life
6146 Security
5981 Waking at 3 a.m. Comments and analysis of Waking at 3 a.m. by William Stafford 56 Comments
5521 For My Young Friends Who Are Afraid Comments and analysis of For My Young Friends Who Are Afraid by William Stafford 1 Comment
5151 Objector
4726 Just Thinking
4342 The Light By The Barn
3574 Returned To Say
3432 Remembering Mountain Men
3360 Across Kansas Comments and analysis of Across Kansas by William Stafford 2 Comments
2958 Lit Instructor Comments and analysis of Lit Instructor by William Stafford 3 Comments
2932 Thinking For Berky Comments and analysis of Thinking For Berky by William Stafford 50 Comments
2818 Allegiances
2381 Atavism
1144 Traveling Through The Dark Comments and analysis of Traveling Through The Dark by William Stafford 110 Comments
539 Ask Me Comments and analysis of Ask Me by William Stafford 17 Comments
512 A Ritual To Read To Each Other Comments and analysis of A Ritual To Read To Each Other by William Stafford 55 Comments
273 When I Met My Muse Comments and analysis of When I Met My Muse by William Stafford 2 Comments
140 Graydigger's Home Comments and analysis of Graydigger's Home by William Stafford 2 Comments


Books by William Stafford
Click here for books by William Stafford.
Stafford Info


Information
Copyright © 2000-2012 Gunnar Bengtsson. All Rights Reserved. Links | Bookstore