Way It Is

( 1 )

Overview

So, the world happens twice—

once what we see it as;

second it legends itself

deep, the way it is.

William Stafford filled his life and ours with poetry of challenge and consolation. The Way It Is gathers unpublished poems from his last year, including the poem he wrote the day he died, as well as an essential selection of works from ...

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Overview

So, the world happens twice—

once what we see it as;

second it legends itself

deep, the way it is.

William Stafford filled his life and ours with poetry of challenge and consolation. The Way It Is gathers unpublished poems from his last year, including the poem he wrote the day he died, as well as an essential selection of works from throughout his career. An editorial team including his son Kim Stafford, Naomi Shihab Nye, and Robert Bly collaborated on shaping this book of Stafford's life in 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. What emerges here is Stafford's faith in language and the soul, those things that form the base for his artistic gyroscope. This collection reveals the depth and breadth of a poet for whom the art was to make a life richly lived.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"William Stafford's quiet presence in the landscape of American poetry in my lifetime has been a kind of continuing reassurance whose value 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. A treasure that he has left us."—W.S. Merwin
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: 9781555972691
  • Publisher: Graywolf Press
  • Publication date: 2/28/1998
  • Pages: 296
  • Sales rank: 725,601
  • Lexile: 950L (what's this?)
  • Product dimensions: 5.92 (w) x 9.84 (h) x 1.08 (d)

Meet the Author

Born in Hutchinson, Kansas, in 1914, William Stafford was one of our most prolific and celebrated poets. He was a witness for peace, and for honesty, recognizing in his writing that "justice will take us millions of intricate moves." Author of over fifty books, and recipient of the National Book Award for Traveling through the Dark, Stafford was a professor at Lewis & Clark College, and a traveling teacher throughout the world. As a conscientious objector during World War II, he began his unswerving habit of writing before dawn each day, and his habitual generosity to other writers and readers. After serving as consultant in Poetry to the Library of Congress in 1970, he was named Oregon's Poet Laureate in 1975. He died at his home in Oregon 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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