Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “Ask Me: 100 Essential Poems of William Stafford” as Want to Read:
Ask Me: 100 Essential Poems of William Stafford
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

Ask Me: 100 Essential Poems of William Stafford

4.43  ·  Rating details ·  273 ratings  ·  51 reviews
"In our time there has been no poet who revived human hearts and spirits more convincingly than William Stafford.” —Naomi Shihab Nye

Some time when the river is ice ask me
mistakes I have made. Ask me whether
what I have done is my life.
     —from Ask Me

In celebration of the poet’s centennial, Ask Me collects one hundred of William Stafford’s essential poems. As a conscientio
...more
Paperback, 128 pages
Published January 7th 2014 by Graywolf Press
More Details... edit details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about Ask Me, please sign up.

Be the first to ask a question about Ask Me

Community Reviews

Showing 1-30
4.43  · 
Rating details
 ·  273 ratings  ·  51 reviews


More filters
 | 
Sort order
Fergus
Mar 15, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Thank you so much, Mr. Stafford, for your incredible gift.

It tormented you, and twisted your sensitive sinews into torturous convolutions. But you wrote anyway. And you shared your secrets with us.

While all the others skidaddled as soon as the grisly Minotaur appeared, you stood tall and didn’t cringe. You didn’t candy coat it all. Where are you now, in our streetwise, canny, insensitive age?

You knew how to press on those touchy nerve endings of ours. The Pharisee in us all wanted to straighten
...more
Vishy
Apr 16, 2018 rated it it was amazing
I have always been a huge fan of American poetry. The reason for that - the long scenic route version - is this. American prose writers have always strived to be accessible to the general reader. What this meant was this - American writers have always tried using language that could be understood by a normal person, avoiding complex words, long sentences and long philosophical ruminations. Instead they have focussed on short sentences, everyday words, plot, character building, great dialogue. Th ...more
Ron
I decided to read 10 of these poems each morning over the last 10 days. Great discoveries every day, and made me want to do a deeper dive into Stafford. Here's a favorite:

"Why I Am Happy"

Now has come, an easy time. I let it
roll. There is a lake somewhere
so blue and far nobody owns it.
A wind comes by and a willow listens
gracefully.

I hear all this, every summer. I laugh
and cry for every turn of the world,
its terribly cold, innocent spin.
That lake stays blue and free; it goes
on and on.

And I know w
...more
Chris
Feb 16, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I had to jot down many phrases and entire poems in my notebook whilst reading this, and I've already made an art journal page for some of them...
Nathan
Mar 12, 2014 rated it it was amazing
William Stafford is one of our national treasures.
I read his books very slowly, because I don't want them to end.
So… I read this one very, very slowly.
Edited by his son Kim, this is absolutely one of the better
"greatest hits" albums I've seen…

This book is one part, or piece in the puzzle,
of what could rescue American poetry from itself…
jeremy
Feb 28, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: poetry, oregon-pnw
2014 marks the centennial of william stafford's birth. if you happen to live anywhere near the pacific northwest, you've undoubtedly noticed that this occasion has been marked by considerable fanfare and a number of high profile events. a prolific and dedicated writer (however late to the game - publishing his first collection at the age of 46), stafford was beloved and seemingly universally-praised by everyone he encountered. ask me is a stunning and stirring collection featuring 100 of staffor ...more
Nan
Aug 05, 2015 rated it really liked it
Shelves: poetry
William Stafford's poems, while initially accessible, often require repeated and attentive readings to mine their fuller meaning. Take time with them. As with any poetry collection, some selections make a special connection to any individual reader. "Ask Me", "You Reading This, Be Ready", "Assurance" and others did that for me.
Nathan Albright
Mar 26, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: challenge-2018
For those who are well-acquainted with the thoughtful and reflective and often deeply straightforward while simultaneously layered poetry of William Stafford [1], it is little surprise that he was considered to be a poet of sufficient worth to have a glossy best-of collection of poems.  And it can be argued by those of us who appreciate his poetry that there were a lot of great poems from the late former poet laureate of Oregon that were not included in this collection.  As a writer of somewhere ...more
Garfield
Mar 14, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: poetry
I pick this volume up again and again. Which is the beauty of poetry, isn't it? So I will probably be "currently-reading" this one over and over again.
Lisa Brintlinger
Oct 28, 2015 rated it it was amazing
I love his poems. I needed to revisit his "essential" poems! As I read, I started a list of the ones I loved and the list kept getting longer and longer. His brilliant eye and heart can focus on nature, human nature, and values in such a wondrous way.
Debbie Robson
I’m going to come right out and say it. Ask Me is definitely not my essential 100 poems of William Stafford, but let me explain. For a 15 year period I didn’t write any poetry and barely read any collections. The one collection I did read and really love was The Long Song The Wind Makes by William Stafford. I actually begged the library to sell the copy to me as there was a scribble on the inside page to suggest it was going to be put up for sale. They politely refused. Next visit, of course, it ...more
Mary Mills
Apr 09, 2019 rated it liked it
Uplifting without being sappy; lovely without being overblown. Stafford was a conscientious objector, and it shows, even in the poems that are not actually about that. He values life and advocates for drawing together while still being aware that, to quote one of the poems, "the darkness around us is deep." There are a few in this collection that I read, shrugged, and forgot--but that's probably going to be true in nearly every collection of poetry ever written. Not everything resonates for ever ...more
Lenora Good
Jul 04, 2017 rated it it was amazing
These 100 poems were selected by William Stafford's son. It is my first foray into Stafford's poetry, at least in a book (I've read some of his poems onsey-twosey). All of these poems are good, and a great many are marvelous.

I read them today, July 4th, and as I finished it I smiled—for I am a Vet, and Mr. Stafford was a conscientious objector, and my favorites of his poems were the anti-war ones.

If you've ever wondered if you could write a poem, or even should, pick up a copy of Ask Me, read it
...more
O
Aug 18, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Deeply honest and abundantly emotive, Stafford's poetry is as American as anything by Whitman or Dickinson. His economy with words is testament to the fact that less is more. I've grown fond of this publishing house, Graywolf, as well, they introduced me to James L. White, another unquestionably American poet.
Michelle
Nov 29, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: owned
As someone who has never read Stafford before, I really enjoyed the preface written by the late poet's daughter which offered great insight into the kind of man he was and the meaning behind his words. She references an occurrence at one of his many poetry readings on the road when a listener openly remarked "I could have written that" and Stafford looked upon the man kindly and replied "But you didn't... you could write your own". Stafford himself didn't release his first book until forty-six y ...more
Patricia McLaughlin
Apr 08, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: poetry
A keen observer, translating the hieroglyphics of everyday life into stanzas of lucent meaning
Justin Pitt
Jan 10, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Completely moving. Simple and contemplative.

Highlights are "Ask Me," "Vocation," "A Catechism," "Passing Remark,""Security," "Just Thinking," and "Any Morning."
Heather
Mar 02, 2018 rated it really liked it
God, I love William Stafford. Even in Quiet Places is still my favorite collection of his, but the poems in here (including some from that collection) are beautiful and moving.
Clint
Nov 16, 2018 rated it really liked it
These are great poems. They are quiet and reflective and make great use of language. I think that just means they are poems, but isn't that enough?
Taylor
Sep 19, 2017 rated it really liked it
I started this when we were still in Oregon and read parts of it by Timothy Lake. It's perfect landscape poetry. I enjoyed it more than I do most poetry.
Colleen
Feb 02, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: all-american, poetry
Reading William Stafford makes me a better viewer of the world, of people, of my own mind.
Anima
Feb 06, 2017 rated it it was amazing
A volume of poems that made me feel that there is someone sharing my perception about the ugliness and beauty that define the uniqueness of the time stretching between every sunrise and sunset. I loved Stafford’s poetic images from the everyday life telling us about the disquiets of those who walk among us with an authentic heart in their chests.

You and Art

“Your exact errors make a music
that nobody hears.
Your straying feet find the great dance
walking alone.
And you live on a world where stumblin
...more
Steven Wittenberg Gordon
Mar 04, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: poetry, favorites
William’s son, Kim Robert Stafford, who is a poet in his own right, selected the poems that grace the pages of Ask Me and provided a brief but helpful preface to the collection. The poems he selected are short--most do not even fill a page--and though easily understood or interpreted, they are nevertheless profound.

Stafford used plainspoken, free verse language, in the manner of Whitman, but unlike Whitman, Stafford was not afraid to give a nod to classical forms--as the many examples of his co
...more
John Orman
Feb 06, 2014 rated it it was amazing
This small book brings a big bang with it, with it's simple, stark language of life and wonder.

The lead poem, "Ask Me" is one of Stafford's most famous poems, and one of my personal favorites after I heard William's son Kim read it a local event celebrating the 100th anniversary of William's birth.

"Ask me whether what I have done is my life.
You and I can turn and look at the silent river and wait.
We know the current is there, hidden; and there
are comings and goings from miles away
that hold the s
...more
Dominic
Jul 10, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: poetry
I have *always* loved William Stafford poems when I stumble upon them in anthologies, so it was about time I picked up a collection of his work. He's highly accessible, but unlike Billy Collins (who is arguably the most popular accessible modern poet), I feel Stafford's presence throughout the entirety of his work. This presence makes me feel closer to the poet and, thus, more moved. Stafford appears to me to have been a thoughtful, peaceful man, and his poetry is a testament to his meditations, ...more
Andy
Feb 07, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Really enjoyable collection of poems. I often prompted the book open to a particular poem and thought about my own life - what more could you want from a book of poetry? Highly recommend.
Ann Schaffer
Apr 26, 2015 rated it liked it
I don't normally read poetry, but a friend leant me this book to fulfill the poetry component of my 2015 reading challenge. I really enjoyed it. Themes include nature (especially rivers and smoke), war (Stafford was a pacifist), memories of people, and quirky experiences. My favorite poem in this book is "The Little Ways That Encourage Good Fortune'.

Like most poetry, it helps to read slowly, and I often read poems more than once to pick up the meaning. It would make a great coffee table or night
...more
Valentina
Feb 22, 2014 rated it liked it
Shelves: first-reads
I won this book for free via Goodreads First Reads and therefore, my review is completely 100% honest.

As someone who wishes to read poetry more often, I found joy in taking the time to read William Stafford's poetry. I adored quite a few of his poems including "Bess" (my absolute favorite, perhaps one of my favorite poems ever), "Climbing along the River", "Things I Learned Last Week", and especially, "When I Met My Muse".
World Literature Today
"Any reader previously unfamiliar with William Stafford’s poetry—if such a reader could be found—could not help but be mesmerized by this sequence, its sustained excellence, its deep and authentic voice of interiority." - Fred Dings, University of South Carolina

This book was reviewed in the March 2015 issue of World Literature Today. Read the full review by visiting our website: http://bit.ly/1E7xRuj
Kathleen (itpdx)
Dec 25, 2013 rated it really liked it
Shelves: poetry
William Stafford was the Poet Laureate of Oregon. This book of 100 poems was collected and published in honor of the centennial of his birth.
For me, these poems are small packages. Some burst open with meaning, clarity and feeling. Some I haven't yet been able to untangle the knot holding them together. But that might be due to life experiences. I can imagine that the poem, "Fish Counter at Bonneville" is a puzzle to readers who are not from the Pacific Northwest.
« previous 1 next »
There are no discussion topics on this book yet. Be the first to start one »

Readers also enjoyed

  • Caribou: Poems
  • The Beauty: Poems
  • Trances of the Blast
  • In Search of Small Gods
  • Application for Release from the Dream: Poems
  • Second Space: New Poems
  • Elegy for a Broken Machine: Poems
  • Radial Symmetry
  • This Present Moment: New Poems
  • Sixty Poems
  • Every Riven Thing: Poems
  • Making Certain It Goes On: The Collected Poems of Richard Hugo
  • Incarnadine: Poems
  • Reflections on a Gift of Watermelon Pickle
  • Splitting an Order
  • Plume: Poems
  • New Collected Poems
  • The Insistence of Beauty
See similar books…
74 followers
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.

In 1970, he was named Consultant in Poetry to the Library of Congress, a position that is now known as Poet Laureate. In 1975, he was named Poet Laureate of Oregon; his tenure in the position lasted until 1990. In 1980,
...more
“You Reading This, Be Ready Starting here, what do you want to remember? How sunlight creeps along a shining floor? What scent of old wood hovers, what softened sound from outside fills the air? Will you ever bring a better gift for the world than the breathing respect that you carry wherever you go right now? Are you waiting for time to show you some better thoughts? When you turn around, starting here, lift this new glimpse that you found; carry into evening all that you want from this day. This interval you spent reading or hearing this, keep it for life— What can anyone give you greater than now, starting here, right in this room, when you turn around?” 3 likes
“You Reading This, Be Ready

Starting here, what do you want to remember?
How sunlight creeps along a shining floor?
What scent of old wood hovers, what softened
sound from outside fills the air?

Will you ever bring a better gift for the world
than the breathing respect that you carry
wherever you go right now? Are you waiting
for time to show you some better thoughts?

When you turn around, starting here, lift this
new glimpse that you found; carry into evening
all that you want from this day. This interval you spent
reading or hearing this, keep it for life—

Whatever can anyone give you greater than now,
starting here, right in this room, when you turn around?”
2 likes
More quotes…