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William Stafford by Brianna Finnegan

Page history last edited by PBworks 13 years, 5 months ago

        William Stafford (1914-1993)

William Stafford was born in Kansas on January 17, 1914. He was a young man when the depression hit his family and he took odd jobs to help out the family. He later went to school at the University of Kansas and graduated in 1937. In 1940 he returned to Kansas University to earn his masters degree in English. Stafford was drafted into World War II, but because he was a conscientious objector he was placed in a work camp. His first published book was, Down in My Heart, it was a grouping of prose that he had written about his time in the work camps. The book had originally been written as Stafford’s master’s thesis. Stafford has published over 65 books of prose and poems. Stafford wrote about what he knew. Most of his poetry is based on things that happened and people he met when he was younger. He says that his father appears as a character in more poems but his mother was the one that influenced his writing more. William Stafford died on August 28, 1993.

A Ritual To Read To Each Other
If you don't know the kind of person I am
and I don't know the kind of person you are
a pattern that others made may prevail in the world
and following the wrong god home we may miss our star.

For there is many a small betrayal in the mind,
a shrug that lets the fragile sequence break
sending with shouts the horrible errors of childhood
storming out to play through the broken dyke.

And as elephants parade holding each elephant's tail,
but if one wanders the circus won't find the park,
I call it cruel and maybe the root of all cruelty
to know what occurs but not recognize the fact.

And so I appeal to a voice, to something shadowy,
a remote important region in all who talk:
though we could fool each other, we should consider--
lest the parade of our mutual life get lost in the dark.

For it is important that awake people be awake,
or a breaking line may discourage them back to sleep;
the signals we give--yes or no, or maybe--
should be clear: the darkness around us is deep.

William Stafford


 For this poem Stafford is writing about the path we take in life. He is trying to tell us that we don’t really know what another person is thinking. If we follow the people around us we may miss the chance to do what we want to do. He is saying in the second stanza that if we don’t follow our own feelings and do what we want to do then we let ourselves down and disappoint the optimistic child that used to have so many ideas. Some people may never realize that they give up on their ideas and Stafford calls that the “root of all cruelty”. He asks everyone to think about what they are doing. He knows we can all go through life and pretend that what we are doing is what we want to do but he says that we will all get lost in the groups of people that are all acting the same way. You will lose your individuality. Everyone must do what they want because death is eminent and you don’t want to have regrets.



Traveling Through The Dark
Traveling through the dark I found a deer
dead on the edge of the
WilsonRiver 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.

William Stafford
In this poem Stafford is writing about how some lives, although you wish you could save them, can’t be saved. He does this when he is talking about how you can’t swerve the car to miss the deer because you may hit another car and kill a lot more people. I believe that many people would , if they had to make that decision, would hit the deer. They may feel bad about it but they wanted to protect the other lives in the other car. He also refers to it when he talks about the fawn that is still in the doe and will never have the chance to live. He takes the time he does while he is thinking about the fawn because it is sad that because of an accident it will have never gotten to do any of the things a deer gets to do. It seems like a waste of a deer. Why would a deer become pregnant if the fawn was never ment to live. He then pushes the doe over the edge of the cliff to prevent another accident from happening because she is laying there. He may not be able to save her or her baby but he can prevent someone else from getting hurt because of her body.

Comments (7)

Anonymous said

at 9:46 am on May 10, 2007

Very good interpretations. The first poem he is sending a message to people that you should live your life to the fullest and, like you said, have no regrets. He seems like a man who tresures life and and doesn't take it for granted. _Bre Erickson

Anonymous said

at 9:47 am on May 10, 2007

I especially enjoyed the deer poem. The poem itself makes the reader think about the tough choice of the value of life. Your explanation helps the reader to explore those questions more deeply - especially the ending about the author's decision to push the doe off the cliff. I, actually, am sad and perplexed that he did not choose to help the fawn be born! Are some lives really more valuable than others? I think the poem is really about priorities and sacrifices.

The first poem was also analyzed well, but I am still confused about the elephants and the circus. Perhaps you could explain that metaphor/simile more. Also, why is the title about "reading to each other?"

Anonymous said

at 10:05 am on May 10, 2007

Thought provoking interpretations regarding the value of life. -John Taylor

Anonymous said

at 10:07 am on May 10, 2007

I like the deer poem the most. i have hunting family and yeah it is true to save someone's life by having her to be cleared and die in peace with her fawn. sometimes, it is meant to have a doe pregnant so can tell somebody the meaning of the life. =) good job! katy k.

Anonymous said

at 10:07 am on May 10, 2007

The interpretation of traveling through the dark is so true I believe it to be strongly connected top the piece you chose for your wiki page. : )

Anonymous said

at 10:08 am on May 10, 2007

Good interpretations, but maybe some links would be helpful as well. But great job!

Anonymous said

at 10:08 am on May 10, 2007

I really liked the first poem "A Ritual To Read To Each Other". The beginning of the poem was easy to understand but as I read further I kind of got lost but your explanation cleared everything up. Your page looks good but some links to more information on your poet could help!

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