Acccording to Stafford ( Passwords: Poems ), our lives are full of ordinary miracles whose effects reverberate throughout time and space, changing existence forever. He writes: ``Religion has touched your throat. Not the same now, / you could close your eyes and go on full of light.'' Yet there is pain in living a finite life in an infinite world. Stafford seems to believe in the soul, but there is the fear of the unknown to contend with after ``our selfish / bodies . . . crash and ignite the soul / to spark, or maybe to spark, maybe to smoulder.'' With language that is sometimes surreal, sometimes religious, Stafford conveys the inherent primordialism of life's everyday occurrences. Of standing in a tidepool, he writes: ``It stirs now and then to bring / faint news of old storms deeper than the earth.'' This vision is ultimately a transcendent one; evidence of the metaphysical is to be found everywhere--in nature, in other human beings, in our own minds. These are wise poems, written by one whose powers of perception have been strengthened by years of aesthetic and emotional analysis of his life experiences, and infused with the kind of reassuring enlightenment and reason that readers have come to expect from Stafford. (Aug.)
Stafford's voice--lyrical, plainspoken, devotional--has long been a constant in American poetry. Now approaching 80, he continues to eschew fashion and formalism, allowing his poems to find their own balance and proportion. Again and again, he considers Nature's instructive capacity and ways in which we can tap it for sustenance in our own lives: ``People walk out and find/ the trees discussing religion,/ and how to hold your arms when it rains.'' Having weathered well the Northern exposures, Stafford fills his poems with ravines and storms and pummeling wind, the forces of legend and primeval omnipotence, but readers can always locate the taut, stubborn seedling of human caring and integrity focusing the wide landscape around it. This is a winner of a 1992 Western States Book Award.-- Fred Muratori, Cornell Univ. Lib., Ithaca, N.Y.
It speaks to the low estate of the sadly far from Stafford's best, received a 1992 Western States Book Award in poetry. Published by Confluence Press (Lewis-Clark State College, Lewiston, Idaho) and distributed to the trade by National Book Network, 4720-A Boston Way, Lanham, MD 20706. Annotation c. Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (booknews.com)