OREGON STATE UNIVERSITY

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William Stafford

This year marks the centenary of the birth of William Stafford, arguably Oregon’s most famous poet. Stafford was born in Kansas, received his masters from the University of Kansas and moved to Oregon in 1948 where he taught at Lewis & Clark College until 1980.  He was Oregon's Poet laureate from 1975-1990 after serving as Consultant in Poetry to the Library of Congress.  A disciplined and prolific writer of over sixty books, Stafford began every day by writing a poem. He wrote his last poem on the day he died.

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What Others Say:

“… the simple language has become a mannerism. The transparent sense of myth or folktale has become a deliberate naïveté.”
                                                    --Paul Zweig

“In William Stafford’s poems, the shocks of steadiness, the great stillnesses of his quiet, reserved voice – innocently surprised at its own depths of silence – are just one step, one line of verse, one breath away from registering the whole earth’s shudder as our own…”
                                                    --Laurence Lieberman

 “William Stafford is more than a landscape poet, but as a landscape poet, he is one of the very best.”
                                                    --Richard Hugo

“From time to time I meet someone who speaks of Stafford’s poetry as kindly, benign, and full of homilies, and I am always mystified.  Are we talking about the same poetry?  In this particular poem we stand at the edge of a frozen place and are asked to contemplate some of the most devastating of possibilities.  The mistakes hinted at here are clearly not typing errors.”
                                                    --Linda Pastan

“Simplicity shines forth as the great thing it is.  Yet it is nearly impossible to tell where the irony begins and leaves off. “
                                                    --David Young
 
Archibald MacLeish advises that a poem lies less in what is said than what is not, what is communally recognized, but is just shy of being put in words, possibly cannot be put in words. . . Atavism takes you from the common experience into the uncommon, the recognition that we have a long history of forest and field, clearing and thicket, that beneath our skin lies the caution of hunter and hunted.
                                                    --Joyce Heon

One could call it a supreme kind of honesty and not be wrong; still, the term seems slightly off the beat of his deeply considered, greatly coherent, accomplished, self-aware writing.  Mr. Stafford is wilier than the wiliest fox, raccoon or other wild creature that makes tracks through his poems.
                                                    --R. W. Hunt