- Paperback: 268 pages
- Publisher: Graywolf Press; Revised ed. edition (March 1 1999)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 1555972845
- ISBN-13: 978-1555972844
- Product Dimensions: 15.2 x 2.1 x 22.8 cm
- Shipping Weight: 476 g
- Average Customer Review: 3 customer reviews
- Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #120,752 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
The Way It Is: New and Selected Poems Paperback – Mar 1 1999
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“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
About 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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(excerpted from "Sic Vice & Verse" review by Carlye Archibeque.)
The sun becomes a constant companion to the writing act, a kind of muse that illuminates the hand at work. For instance, the last poem he wrote, just hours before he died, begins with the line: "Well, it was yesterday./Sunlight used to follow my hand." Towards the end, he reiterates: "I listened and put my hand/out in the sun again. It was all easy." Perhaps the knowledge that these are the last lines Stafford will write adds to their poignancy (that hand will soon be stilled, in darkness), but I feel privileged, every time I open this book, to be in the presence of a voice that speaks so simply and yet with such passion. Because of the sheer number of poems and writings Stafford left behind, there are bound to be some clunkers, some lines that seem overly simplistic and sentimental, but the force of Stafford's voice overcomes these occasional lapses. The Way it Is is a "must have" for the writer's library; crack open the book at the start of your own writing session and you'll remember why you ever wanted to be a writer in the first place.
too strong to leave this world..."
So wrote William Stafford in "For A Lost Child"
but it could apply equally as well to him.
His absence continues to leave a conspicuous void.
Still, there remains his writing, and this definitive volume
contains the majority of his finest work.
"Starting here, what do you want to remember?"
So opens "You Reading This, Be Ready"
and it's somewhat telling of what his writing was predominantly about:
Assuring remembrance. Making note of what endures.
The beauty. The sorrow. The questions.
Marking even the smallest snapshot scene as every bit as worthy of recall
as any grand-scale panorama.
Even as his own life and times become relegated to the past,
his poems ~ indeed, every insight he set on paper ~
forever will remain in the present tense ~
ever as accurate and timely as they were when first composed.
It's not only how things were, but how they are ~ the way it still is.
His based his work on common human experience,
the lessons and questions garnered in the day-to-day world.
Uncomplicated. Mindful. Authentic. Perceptive.
Life-affirming even as they question,
life-enhancing even when they convey a brutal truth.
Certainly no poet or writer should be without his presence on their nearest bookshelf.
His perceptions and voice reach across time and distance so vividly alive
that he easily incites a creative response ~
setting any aspiring writer fast upon his or her own path.
Serving as a literary generator, of sorts,
to paraphrase something Robert Frost once called those rare inspiring individuals.
He had a way of speaking to each reader so directly,
he made of them a friend.
You will never fail to notice every thread of light upon a leaf,
every solitary play of colour across the sunset sky,
every sad passenger in any passing car once you've shared his vision.
Rare was the moment, memory, thought or question,
he let go by without notice, contemplation, honourable mention.
"What can anyone give you greater than now...?"
he once asked and that thought still holds true.
And if you open this book completely at random, right here and now,
letting it fall open to any given page,
whatever line your eyes come to rest upon and read
will be pure gift: your life will be better for it.
Most helpful customer reviews on Amazon.com
I have always liked William Stafford. He is inspiring in the sense that he wrote everyday, but what's more--he has this gentle, contemplative voice that seems to draw you into his world.
I am from Kansas myself, and I was reading the poem "Living on the Plains," and it struck me how it is to live on the plains, or anywhere for that matter, "our great race through the stars / and how the world can't keep up with our dreams."
And so it is.
I am in hopes my friend, who is not from Kansas, will enjoy his poetry as much as I do.
Stafford's work has a bit of a western US feel, which is natural since he was from Kansas and taught for decades in Oregon. Thus, themes such as nature, western locations, and the ambiguities of freedom often surface in his work. But this is not simply nostalgia or sentimentalism; the settings are authentic loci for his words. He wrote every day before dawn, and the poems convey that sense: capturing everyday life and its thoughts, reflections, obsessions, rhythms, and ultimately its complete arc.
As for this collection, it presents hundreds of poems spanning decades of his work. Most of the poems are short, one or two per page. Some are better than others, of course -- but which ones you like will no doubt differ from the ones I would select. The richness here is to have so many. All of them are worth reading twice -- and many, many of them will reward you upon reading times countless time again over the years.
And finally a mundane topic: the physical book. It is nicely formatted, printed, and bound, with clean and solid paper. It simply feels good -- large enough to be substantial but not so much that it is a burden. This is a nice alternative to poetry volumes that feel massive and overblown, or to those that betray the seriousness of the work through poor production. It's a nice, reasonably priced volume.