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The Way It Is: New and Selected Poems

4.5 of 5 stars 4.50  ·  rating details  ·  454 ratings  ·  37 reviews
William Stafford (1914-1993) was an earnest, perceptive, and often affecting American poet who filled his life and ours with poetry of challenge and consolation. The Way It Is: New and Selected Poems gathers unpublished works from his last year, including the poem he wrote the day he died, as well as an essential and wide-ranging selection of works from throughout his care...more
Paperback, 268 pages
Published March 1st 1999 by Graywolf Press (first published 1998)
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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 785)
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Sherry Chandler
After nearly a decade of unjust war, torture, and human rights violations on the part of our government, I find myself exhausted of outrage and with little belief that any action of mine can cause any meaningful political change.

At such a time, I come to William Stafford as to a refuge.

Take, for example, "Something to Declare"

They have never had a war big enough
to slow that pulse in the earth under
our path near that old river.

Even as a swallow swims through the air
a certain day skips and returns
...more
Mark
This is the first book I have finished for My Two-Thirds Book Challenge.

Sara picked this book up at the lovely Defunct Books in Iowa City. It is a nice used book store that sits atop The Red Avocado vegan restaurant. Two great places in such proximity!

At 268 pages, there are a lot of poems in this book, which cover a 36-year publication history (1960-1996). It even includes the poem he wrote on the day he died.

I quite enjoyed this book, copied out several poems and a handful or two of great line...more
k8inorbit
a wonderful compilation of stafford's work including each poem written the last year of his life. (he always tried to write a poem a day, so that's a decent bunch.)

stafford is one of my favorite poets, this collection manages to give you his life's work, plus a whole slew of new things that'd he'd just started putting down on paper. it's hard to say which bunch i enjoyed more.
Cynthia
These are among the most accessible poems I have ever found. I feel like some of them have been written just for me. I am happy to have discovered William Stafford finally...and wonder how I missed him before! This collection includes poems he wrote in the last year of his life, including the last day of his life. Lovely preface by Nye.
Harold Bowes
This is the best introduction to Stafford, a great overview, and it includes a section entitled "There's a Thread You Follow," with a selection of 46 poems written the year of his death, sequenced according to date written. His practice was to write a one poem per day. His last poem, "Are you Mr. William Stafford?", will break your heart.
Monty
'You there, reading this, be ready,' was read on my wedding day and I was ready...
I go back to stafford often. Someone says in the intoduction to 'The Way it is' that thre is a different stafford for everyone.
I love all the staffords - the playful, the funny, the important, the popular, the moral, the angry, the meditative, the sad..
Karen
Stafford's writing while direct and plain is rich with observation and understanding of life. This is a book to return to again and again over the years, and I suspect find new meanings each time. Stafford's humility and love of nature shine in his writing. While they are different, as a fan of Mary Oliver I'd also recommend Stafford.
Emmett Moore
I loved Stafford. His poetry delivers like drinking water: you don't realize how much you needed it until you've had your fill. I appreciate how short and yet substantial his works are; it starts to feel like beads on a necklace after a time, with each one different, and yet all of them speaking to the same big question.
Ian
The collection truly conveys the scope and power of Stafford’s poetry. Many of the poems in this collection have been widely anthologized, but the book is a great to explore the many subtleties of Stafford’s writing. Stafford’s work is immediately accessible and devastatingly tremendous in its simplicity.
John Orman
These wonderful works were culled from 3000 poems published by William Stafford, the late Poet Laureate of oregon, including the last poem written the morning of his death.

Many of the titles refer to Oregon locations: "Malheur Dawn", "By a River in Osage Country", and "In Hurricane Canyon", "By the Deschutes Shore", "At the Klamath Berry Festival".

Many great lines here:

In "Message from Space", the message is "Everything counts; the message is the world."

In "Trouble with Reading", we "discover ho...more
Jim
Another book I'll have on my "currently-reading" shelf forever. Poetry--you can't just dash through it and if it is good you have to read it more than once. I love lines like this: "A voice within my shadow wakened me".
Russ
Sep 30, 2008 Russ added it
His development as a poet and person is amazing. his words are so soft --yet his poetry is a comforting hand as you lay on the ground..One of the most gentle and gifted poets of all time.Truly a man of peace
Jj
"Right has a long and intricate name./ And the saying of it is a lonely thing."
Dean
Just outstanding. Unpretentious, thoughtful, simple, excellent poetry.
Grady McCallie
A friend whose reactions to the world I particularly admire posted a poem by William Stafford online recently; that was the first I'd heard of him. His collected poems mostly fall within a distinct emotional terrain - part stoic, part melancholy - and within it, they are wonderful. Stafford published his first book of poetry at age 48, and many of his poems focus on memories of his parents, aging and retirement, or how we live in the presence of transience and loss. His language is resolutely si...more
Shawn Sorensen
There are a lot of reasons the fan base of this deceased poet keeps growing. For readers of William Stafford, it is the wisdom of his message, his clear, comprehensible prose, his quiet urgency and subtle, honest emotions. His magic lies in not trying to be anything other than who he is. He is often playful but more often serious.

In a body of work this size, the themes become obvious. There is a calming presence coming up from the earth and down from the stars. In other words, it's everywhere -...more
Cynthia
It may be a mistake, if you're just beginning to read poetry for the first time when you are old, to start with a long book by just one poet. An anthology may be the way to go. If you're reading just one poet, soon the poems begin to sound a little bit all the same. You get glimpses of a life and a way of seeing and some of the words and images take hold of you. You think that perhaps his mother was not a happy person and that she bequeathed some of her melancholy to her son.
Barry
Lovely work, that shows Staffords forte of making the simple and everyday things vibrate. Not consistently stellar... some lapses in imagery like "Here came a horse, clippety-clop, away" (Learners) but some deceptively simple while illuminating, like Fixers "I've bullied rusty iron and made it remember what to do...."
Definitely worth the time to read. Makes me want to see what his son has done.
Anthony St. Clair
I never read enough Stafford, and decided to do something about it. One of my fave volumes, the fellow Oregon transplant's simple but deep, image-rich language stirs me, soothes me, and always helps me look at the world differently.
Barry Harris
I think the best way to learn poetry is to take the a poem written by Stafford and knowing what he knows and what you know that may or may not be what he knows..... then with your mind like that, ,,,,, writer.
Daina
Along with Naomi Shihab Nye, William Stafford is my favorite English language poet. Accessible, easy to read and enjoy, hits the nail on the head sometimes with his statements and questions.
Beth
Dec 30, 2007 Beth rated it 5 of 5 stars
Shelves: poetry
As with most poetry, I pick this book up over and again and the poems read anew each time. I have really deepened my appreciation for Stafford's work lately.
Ashley
Jun 18, 2008 Ashley rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: anyone interested in modern US poetry
Recommended to Ashley by: a blog
Shelves: poetry
Wonderful introduction to Stafford. All his poems enchant me and it is so wonderful to have hundreds of pages of them to thumb through.

Highly recommended!
Heather
I mine this for wisdom every few months. It's like the Bible: every time I read it, I find something new.
Mary
simple, accessible nature and nature of the heart poetry from mr. oregon himself.
R.J.
A marvelous, salt of the earth poet from Kansas. Read it is all I can say.
Teri Anderson
One of my all-time favorite poetry anthologies. I dip into it often.
Tracy O
This book is superb. I will add some of his short poems here later.
Dan Rivas
May 13, 2007 Dan Rivas is currently reading it
This book is always on my "currently-reading" shelf.
jimstoic
Glimmers of brilliance in homespun poems.
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William Edgar Stafford was an American poet and pacifist, and the father of poet and essayist Kim Stafford. He and his writings are sometimes identified with the Pacific Northwest.

More about William Edgar Stafford...
The Darkness Around Us is Deep: Selected Poems Even in Quiet Places You Must Revise Your Life Traveling Through The Dark Every War Has Two Losers: William Stafford on Peace and War

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“This dream the world is having about itself
includes a trace on the plains of the Oregon trail,
a groove in the grass my father showed us all
one day while meadowlarks were trying to tell
something better about to happen.”
6 likes
“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.”
5 likes
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