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William Stafford (1914-1993)

William Stafford was born in Hutchinson, Kansas in 1914. He graduated from the University of Kansas in 1937, and enrolled in the University of Wisconsin in 1939 for graduate work in Economics. He switched back to Kansas in 1940 to pursue a master’s degree in English, but with the advent of World War II, he was drafted before he could complete his degree.

A conscientious objector, Stafford spent the next four years in work camps in several states. During this period he met and married Dorothy Frantz, daughter of a minister of the Church of the Brethren.

After working briefly as a teacher and relief worker following the war, Stafford completed his master’s degree at the University of Kansas in 1947, using his memoir of the conscientious objector years to produce his thesis, published as Down in My Heart. In 1948, he accepted a teaching post at Lewis and Clark College in Portland, Oregon. Stafford remained in Oregon to the end of his life, becoming accepted as a regional poet of the Pacific Northwest landscape. Taking a brief sojourn from Lewis and Clark, he earned his PhD in creative writing at the University of Iowa in 1954. Although his first book of poems, West of Your City, was not published until 1960, his subsequent output was prolific.

Recipient of many awards and honors including the National Book Award for Poetry, William Stafford also served as Poetry Consultant for the Library of Congress from 1970 to 1971 (a post now named Poet Laureate of the United States).

Those describing Stafford’s poetry often resort to such words as "simple," "clear," and "natural." But his simplicity was always deceptive: his poems go deep and their clarity appears only after exploring multiple layers. He was a superb poet of both the natural world and of the interior landscapes of the human heart.

Those describing William Stafford often use the terms "humble," "modest," "gracious," "strong," and "non-violent." He was all of those, but above all he was a poet of pure vision, a human being of enormous heart and sensitivity, and a passionate pacifist.

It was his habit to rise early every morning and to write a poem before the rest of the household stirred. He made no demands on these poems: he opened himself to allow the poem to speak through him. The poem he was writing on August 28, 1993 – the day that he died – contained the line: "Be ready for what God sends."
Find available items by: William Stafford
Poetry by William Stafford
  • West of Your City. Los Gatos, Calif: Talisman Press, 1960.
  • Traveling Through the Dark. New York: Harper and Row, 1962.
  • The Rescued Year. New York: Harper and Row, 1966.
  • Eleven Untitled Poems. Mt. Horeb, Wisconsin.: Perishable Press, 1968.
  • Weather: Poems. Mt. Horeb, Wisconsin.: Perishable Press, 1969.
  • Allegiances. New York: Harper and Row, 1970.
  • Temporary Facts. Athens, Ohio: Duane Schneider Press, 1970.
  • Someday, Maybe. New York: Harper and Row, 1973.
  • In the Clock of Reason. Victoria, B.C.: Soft Press, 1973.
  • That Other Alone. Mt. Horeb, Wisconsin: Perishable Press, 1973.
  • Going Places: Poems. Reno, Nevada: West Coast Poetry Review Press, 1974.
  • The Earth. Port Townsend, Washington: Graywolf Press, 1974.
  • North by West, with John Haines. Seattle, Washington: Spring Rain Press, 1975.
  • Braided Apart, with Kim Stafford. Lewiston, Idaho: Confluence Press, 1976.
  • Late, Passing Prairie Farm. Northampton, Massachusetts: Main Street, 1976.
  • Stories That Could Be True: New and Collected Poems. New York: Harper and Row, 1977.
  • The Design on the Oriole. Mt. Horeb, Wisconsin: Night Heron Press, 1977.
  • Two about Music. Knotting, Bedfordshire: Sceptre Press, 1978.
  • All about Light. Athens, Ohio: Croissant and Company, 1978.
  • Tuned in Late One Night. Northhampton, Massachusetts: Deerfield Press, 1978; Dublin: Gallery Press, 1978.
  • Passing a Creche. Seattle, Washington: Sea Pen Press, 1978.
  • Tuft by Puff. Mt. Horeb, Wisconsin: Perishable Press, 1978.
  • The Quiet of the Land. New York: Nadja Press, 1979.
  • Around You, Your House and a Catechism. Knotting, Bedfordshire: Sceptre Press, 1979.
  • Things That Happen Where There Aren't Any Peple. Brockport, N.Y.: BOA Editions, 1980.
  • Absolution. Knotting, Bedfordshire: Martin Booth, 1980.
  • Passwords. Seattle, Washington: Sea Pen Press, 1980.
  • Wyoming Circuit. Tannersville, New York: Tideline Press, 1980.
  • Sometimes like a Legend: Puget Sound Poetry. Port Townsend, Washington: Copper Canyon Press, 1981.
  • A Glass Face in the Rain: New Poems. New York: Harper and Row, 1982.
  • Segues: A Correspondence in Poetry, with Marvin Bell. Boston, Massachusetts: David Godine, 1983.
  • Roving across Fields: A Conversation and Uncollected Poems, 1942-1982. Daleville, Indiana: Barnwood Press, 1983.
  • Smoke's Way: Poems from Limited Editions, 1968-1981. Port Townsend, Washington: Graywolf Press, 1983.
  • Stories and Storms and Strangers. Rexburg, Idaho: Honeybrook Press, 1984.
  • Listening Deep. Great Barrington, Massachusetts.: Penmaen Press, 1984.
  • Wyoming. Bristol, Rhode Island.: Ampersand Press, 1985.
  • Brother Wind. Rexburg, Idaho: Honeybrook Press, 1986.
  • An Oregon Message. New York: Harper and Row, 1987.
  • You and Some Other Characters. Rexburg, Idaho: Honeybrook Press, 1987.
  • Writing the World. Baltimore, Maryland: Alembic Press, 1988.
  • Annie-Over, with Martin Bell. Rexburg, Idaho: Honeybrook Press, 1989.
  • A Scripture of Leaves. Elgin, Illinois: Brethren Press, 1989.
  • Fin, Feather, Fur. Rexburg, Idaho: Honeybrook Press, 1989.
  • Kansas Poems. Topeka, Kansas.: Woodley Memorial Press, 1990.
  • How to Hold Your Arms When It Rains. Rexburg, Idaho: Honeybrook Press, 1990.
  • Passwords. New York: HarperCollins, 1991.
  • The Long Sigh the Wind Makes. Monmouth, Oreg.: Adrienne Lee Press, 1991.
  • History Is Loose Again. Rexburg, Idaho: Honeybrook Press, 1991.
  • My Name Is William Tell. Lewiston, Idaho: Confluence Press, 1992.
  • Seeking the Way. Minneapolis, Minnesota: Melia Press, 1992.
Prose by William Stafford
  • Down in My Heart (memoir). 1947
  • Winterward. Ph.D. dissertation, University of Iowa, 1954.
  • Writing the Australian Crawl (essays and reviews). Ann Arbor, Michigan: University of Michigan Press, 1978.
  • You Must Revise Your Life (essays and interviews). Ann Arbor, Michigan. University of Michigan Press, 1986.
  • The Animal That Drank Up Sound (children's book). New York: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1992.

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