From the Publisher
“Stafford's quiet presence in the landscape of American poetry in my lifetime has been a kind of continuing reassurance whose values always seemed to me beyond question. Even those of us who have read him for years are almost certain to be surprised now, I think, and repeatedly surprised, at the range and freshness of his gift, its responsiveness to the small, the plain, the apparently usual. I think his work as a whole will go on surprising us, growing as we recognize it, bearing witness in plain language to the holiness of the heart's affections which he seemed never to doubt. [This book is] a treasure that he has left us.” W.S. Merwin
“[Stafford] left behind a body of work that represents some of the finest poetry written during the second half of [the twentieth] century . . . The poems, which reveal many of Stafford's themes--his affinity for Native Americans, love of nature, protest of war, and concern about the dangers of technology--are subtle and powerful in tone, but imagery is paramount . . . Highly recommended.” Library Journal
“This is a collection to savor and admire. The many contributors to this extraordinary endeavor have completed a task worthy of this much-loved poet.” Harvard Review
Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
In a career that began at 46, Stafford (1914-1993) published 67 full-length collections and chapbooks of sharply observed verse, harvesting poems from his diligently carried out "Daily Writings." Rather than completely refining out the rougher work, this second attempt at selecting from Stafford's vast oeuvre quadruples the poem count of its predecessor, following the arc of a journeyman's career with its attendant excesses, successes and failures. Stafford, who after some itinerant years settled into a 30 year stay at Oregon's Lewis & Clark college and a stint as the state's poet laureate, rendered the objects that came his way in ordinary language. Most striking, in hindsight, is the easy range of his intentionally limited set of linguistic pipes: from simmering violence and its attendant atmospherics ("Travelling Through the Dark"; "Not in the Headlines") to religious naturalism ("I crossed the Sierras in my old Dodge/ letting the speedometer measure God's kindness,/ and slept in the wilderness on the hard ground.") to elegy ("At the Grave of My Brother") and social history and commentary ("Is This Feeling about the West Real?"; "Our City is Guarded by Automatic Rockets"). Other poems offer delicate philosophical introspection, as in the familiar "Bi-focal": "So, the world happens twice/ once what we see it as;/ second it legends itself/ deep, the way it is." Including 71 previously unpublished new poems, among them the poem Stafford wrote the day he died, this collection fully reacquaints us with a quiet, generous presence on the American poetic landscape. (Apr.) FYI: Down in My Heart, Stafford's WWII conscientious objector's diary, is due from Oregon State in April ($14.95 paper 120p ISBN 0-87071-430-9). The Univ. of Mich. recently publishe the essay collection Crossing Unmarked Snow: Further Views on the Winter's Vocation ($13.95 paper ISBN 0-472-06664-1; $39.50 Cloth -09664-8).
A National Book Award winner in 1963, Stafford was also poet laureate of Oregon, and throughout his work he celebrated the beauty of nature while admonishing us to pause and enjoy it. This compendium celebrates the 35-book career of a lyric poet par excellence who died in 1993.
Read an Excerpt
Traveling Through The Dark
Traveling through the dark I found a deer dead on the edge of the Wilson River road. It is usually best to roll them into the canyon: that road is narrow; to swerve might make more dead.
By glow of the tail-light I stumbled back of the car and stood by the heap, a doe, a recent killing; she had stiffened already, almost cold. I dragged her off; she was large in the belly.
My fingers touching her side brought me the reason— her side was warm; her fawn lay there waiting, alive, still, never to be born. Beside that mountain road I hesitated.
The car aimed ahead its lowered parking lights; under the hood purred the steady engine. I stood in the glare of the warm exhaust turning red; around our group I could hear the wilderness listen.
I thought hard for us all—my only swerving—, then pushed her over the edge into the river.