Way It Is: New and Selected Poems

Overview

William Stafford (1914-1993) was an earnest, perceptive, and often affecting American poet who filled his life and ours with poetry of challenge and consolation. The Way It Is: New and Selected Poems gathers unpublished works from his last year, including the poem he wrote the day he died, as well as an essential and wide-ranging selection of works from throughout his career. An editorial team including his son Kim Stafford, the poet Naomi Shihab Nye, and the poet, translator, and author Robert Bly collaborated ...

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Overview

William Stafford (1914-1993) was an earnest, perceptive, and often affecting American poet who filled his life and ours with poetry of challenge and consolation. The Way It Is: New and Selected Poems gathers unpublished works from his last year, including the poem he wrote the day he died, as well as an essential and wide-ranging selection of works from throughout his career. An editorial team including his son Kim Stafford, the poet Naomi Shihab Nye, and the poet, translator, and author Robert Bly collaborated on shaping this book of Stafford's pioneering career in modern poetry. The poems in The Way It Is encompass Stafford's rugged domesticity, the political edge of his irony, and his brave starings-off into emptiness.

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Editorial Reviews

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).
Library Journal
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.
Library Journal
Stafford, a National Book Award winner and once Oregon's Poet Laureate, left behind a body of work that represents some of the finest poetry written during the second half of this century. This volume compiles a wide range of his work, from "Traveling Through the Dark" to the poem he wrote on the day he died, "Are You Mr. William Stafford?" The poems, which reveal many of Stafford's themeshis affinity for Native Americans, love of nature, protest of war, and concern about the dangers of technologyare subtle and powerful in tone, but imagery is paramount. "Frogs discovered their national anthem again./ I didn't know a ditch could hold so much joy" notes one poem, regretting that the world is too fast-paced to notice beauty's intricacy. But Stafford stops to acknowledge his world and all its detail; up to the end, his dedication to language and rhythm revealed his heart's affections. Now this volume generously shares them. Highly recommended for all collections.Tim Gavin, Episcopal Acad., Merion, PA
Minnesota Monthly
“William Stafford is quite simply one of the greatest poets of our times. If you only read one contemporary poet, it should be Stafford, and if you own only one collection of his work, it should be this one. Stafford’s poetry is always approachable, but never facile. He writes about the everyday, and in the everyday he finds transcendence. A group of editors (including Stafford’s son, Kim, and Robert Bly) have culled from the more than 3,000 poems Stafford published in his lifetime the 200 found in this book. Also included are an unpublished manuscript and selections from Stafford’s daily writings from 1993, the year he died. The result is a varied and sweeping volume: the essential William Stafford.”
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781555972844
  • Publisher: Graywolf Press
  • Publication date: 3/28/1999
  • Pages: 268
  • Sales rank: 259,898
  • Product dimensions: 6.01 (w) x 9.05 (h) x 0.86 (d)

Meet the Author

William Stafford was born in Hutchinson, Kansas, in 1914. After the Second World War (to which he was a conscientious objector), he earned a Ph.D. at the newly created Iowa Writer's Workshop. A longtime lecturer, workshop leader, and advocate on behalf of younger writers and readers, Stafford taught English at Lewis and Clark College from 1956 to 1979. He was awarded the National Book Award in Poetry for Traveling through the Dark. The author of over fifty books, Stafford remains one of the most beloved and widely read poets in contemporary American letters. He died in Oregon, where he had formerly served as the state's poet laureate, in 1993.

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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.

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Sort by: Showing 1 Customer Reviews
  • Posted January 10, 2010

    more from this reviewer

    I Also Recommend:

    Stafford's Greatest Hits - The More Complete Version

    There are a lot of reasons the fan base of this deceased poet keeps growing. For readers of William Stafford, it is the wisdom of his message, his clear, comprehensible prose, his quiet urgency and subtle, honest emotions. His magic lies in not trying to be anything other than who he is. Stafford can also be playful.

    In a body of work this size, the themes become obvious. There is a calming presence coming up from the earth and down from the stars. It's everywhere - if one is willing to do more than glance around. Our destruction of nature will come back to us someday. Time passes whether one likes it or not. War is never a matter of fate. Fear is everywhere - and something to learn from. The unassuming, metaphorical nature of Stafford's writing means that these important, timeless messages have a better chance soak into one's psyche, slow and sure.

    And he's not afraid to take on opposing opinions to again reflect on his place in the world:

    "After Arguing against the Contention That Art Must Come from Discontent"

    Whispering to each handhold, "I'll be back,"
    I go up the cliff in the dark. One place
    I loosen a rock and listen a long time
    till it hits, faint in the gulf, but the rush
    of the torrent almost drowns it out, and the wind-
    I almost forgot the wind: it tears at your side
    or it waits and then buffets; you sag outward....

    I remember they said it would be hard. I scramble
    by luck into a little pocket out of
    the wind and begin to beat on the stones
    with my scratched numb hands, rocking back and forth
    in silent laughter there in the dark;
    "Made it again!" Oh how I love this climb!
    -the whispering to stones, the drag, the weight
    as your muscles crack and ease on, working
    right. They are back there, discontent,
    waiting to be driven forth. I pound
    on the earth, riding the earth past the stars:
    "Made it again! Made it again!"


    "After arguing" represents the best, most enduring trait of Stafford's work: the celebration of being alone and of making your own path in life. Stafford acknowledges loneliness, pays tribute to his parents and others who died in his lifetime, but again and again finds comfort in his own company.

    This book provides an important sampling of Stafford's work. The excerpts from his first book "West of Your City" and his 1982 offering "A Glass Face In the Rain" particularly stand out. It is a volume that reads well all at once or anytime a calm, wise, beautiful and evocative voice is needed.

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