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The Darkness Around Us is Deep: Selected Poems

4.41  ·  Rating details ·  450 ratings  ·  34 reviews
Bestselling author Robert Bly selects his favorite works by the award-winning poet William Stafford.
Paperback, 160 pages
Published January 12th 1994 by Harper Perennial (first published February 1st 1993)
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Bill Kerwin
May 22, 2007 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: poetry, 20th-c-amer

Robert Bly edited and introduced this short selection of William Stafford’s poems. It is much needed, since Stafford is an extremely prolific poet, and it is good to have an excellent judge like Bly to look through all the good stuff and choose the most characteristic and best. (It was Stafford’s practice to write a poem everyday. When someone asked him, what he would do if he wasn’t inspired that day, he said, “Well, then I just lower my standards.)

William Stafford grew up in Kansas, spent WW I
Oct 27, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: poetry
"You don't have to
prove anything," my mother said. "Just be ready
for what God sends." I listened and put my hand
out in the sun again. It was all easy."

Wonderful, gutsy, spiritual stuff. I've learned so much from Stafford.
May 24, 2008 rated it really liked it
Shelves: owned
A selection of poems by William Stafford, edited and with an introduction by Robert Bly.

The poems are worth reading, but I mostly remember this book for an anecdote that Bly relates about Stafford:

William Stafford looks mild, but actually he is quite fierce. I heard a story about a week he spent as teacher at the Bread Loaf Writers' Conference. The staff emphasized "finding your voice," which turned out to be a study of what the poetry establishment wanted at the moment. Every teacher gave one c
Jan 05, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: poetry
Can't say enough of this collection. The intro says that whenever you set a detail down in language, it becomes the end of a thread. The writer and reader's goal is to find the ends of golden threads and to follow them wherever they go. This books is full of wonderful, golden threads to follow, combining the mundane and the magical in almost every poem.
Jun 14, 2008 rated it it was amazing
I love poetry, but I hate most poetry. Stafford's is the exception. There's not much to say other than read it and be edified. It doesn't get any better than "A Ritual to Be Read to Each Other."
Jul 09, 2010 rated it it was amazing
The collection gives an incredible amount of introspection and thought. The poems range from portraits of his family to meditations on the human condition. He is a poet who brings the reader in because of his stark honesty. The collection, compiled by Robert Bly, displays a great tapestry of Stafford’s work.
Sep 08, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: poetry
Stafford is a master poet, but his voice is so quiet as to be deceptive. He's like Frost: sharp, insightful, direct but with a plain speech way of writing, and he cares more about the human race, where we're all going and what matters for everyone, than any other poet I've ever read. If I could read one book of poetry the rest of my life, this may be it.
Dec 24, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: poetry
One of his classics. The title poem especially moving. That line gets me all the time.
Mar 02, 2009 rated it really liked it
Not my favorite selected poems; there are some classic Stafford pieces conspicuously absent from this book.
Nathan Albright
Apr 13, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: challenge-2018
When one has read as many books by William Stafford as I have [1], you get a sense for the most important elements of his work to those who make compilations.  One knows that one is going to get a selection of good poems that is nonetheless varied in terms of its register and subject matter, but there will be some consistent perspectives and subjects that will appear over and over again.  Moreover, when one has read as many compilations of Stafford's poems, one has a sense of something that is s ...more
Apr 29, 2019 rated it it was amazing
I have always loved William Stafford and his poetry. Plain-spoken, humble, and profound, some of his lines are those I hang onto most. A Quaker poet, a WWII conscientious-objector, morning runner, and fantastic teacher. Reading these poems again was like an outdoor hike and chat with an old friend.
Dec 11, 2019 rated it it was amazing
I love the blend of simple observation and deep truth in William Stafford’s poetry. Reading Robert Bly’s introduction was helpful before starting this, but rereading it after the fact was worthwhile too. He points to Stafford’s Native American ancestry, conscientious objectorship in WW II and relationship with his parents as keys to understanding this beautiful, heartfelt work.
Bjorn Sorensen
Jan 10, 2009 rated it it was amazing
...Stafford standing tall in the quiet that reveals, in the shadows that illuminate. This is a poet that works harder to say more with less, but also to get more complex messages out of simpler words. If we could ever consistently calm down, we would get to the answer, however painful, and move upward... that's the main message this reader received. Parts of "Archival Print":

God snaps your picture - don't look away -
this room right now, your face tilted
exactly as it is before you can think
or co
Jul 05, 2012 rated it really liked it
This was my introduction to Stafford, thanks to Benjamin Myers. (Yes... I know... I should have read him before now. But I am a literary sloth and only read poetry every day.)

This book came on slowly for me. Bly's introduction had some very good moments, which is a lot for me to say when it comes to Bly. Then, Parts 1 and 2 had several poems I enjoyed considerably. Part 3, "Speaking the Native American Part in Him," lost me, I'm afraid. Except for the poem, "Indian Caves in the Dry Country." I L
Sep 08, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: poetry
This is a fine collection of poems, selected from a lifetime of writing and published in the year of the poet’s death. Stafford reminds a reader of Robert Frost, in the simplicity of his language and its conversational tone, while he expresses deeply felt matters of the human experience.

The collection is divided into six sections, some related to his family, his upbringing in Kansas, and his Native American roots. A conscientious objector during WWII, he devotes the final section to that episode
Jun 04, 2011 rated it liked it
Shelves: read-in-2011
About 3.5 stars from me. I expected to like this more. There were quite a few poems I liked a lot, though. And I love the gentle, meditative grace of it. Reminds me of my father. A similar sensibility, the musing, and quiet wonder at the world.

Most memorable line: "It is important that awake people be awake."

Also, much appreciated:


Animals full of light
walk through the forest
toward someone aiming a gun
loaded with darkness.

That's the world: God
holding still
letting it happen again,
and ag
Nov 16, 2008 rated it it was amazing
So good to check in again with Mr. Stafford during this troubling time. He always has answers for me. I was lucky enough to interview him when he did a reading at my college during my undergrad years. I'm not sure I've met another human being who was as centered as him even in all the years that have followed. He just got up early every morning and wrote a poem, and what a legacy it is. More people should know and remember the man and the poetry.
Jul 12, 2016 rated it really liked it
Overall, I enjoyed this book. I picked it up because I really liked "A Ritual to Read to Each Other". None of the other poems in this collection quite live up to that one, but there are some real gems. Stafford manages to relate everyday natural experiences as mystical without being mysterious. You could do with a worse guide to explore the dark with. Looking forward to reading more poetry by this writer.
Oct 31, 2010 rated it really liked it
I came to this collection through the anthologized poem "Traveling in the Dark". Reading through it while sitting on the floor next to my lady, beneath the biography section of my favorite shitty little bookstore on a fairly miserable saturday night made me feel something close to "fragile." It made me feel that being a "man," is just, well, like "traveling in the dark."
Tom Romig
Aug 28, 2014 rated it really liked it
September 11 is an appropriate day to finish reading this fine poet. A conscientious objector in World War II, Stafford understood the tragedy of unbridled aggression. The violence of 9/11 ironically and sadly unleashed continuing violence throughout the Middle East. Stafford's poems on his youth and family--parents and siblings--reveal almost painful honesty and compassion.
Apr 26, 2009 rated it really liked it
Shelves: poetry
Nice intro to Stafford's work includes nice essay by Robert Bly. Bly selected the poems for the volumes and probably is the one who divided the poems into five sections and who gave each section a name.
Dec 19, 2007 rated it really liked it
Shelves: grownupbooks, poetry
First poetry reading I ever attende with my husband.
Dec 27, 2008 rated it it was amazing
A powerful and accessible poet. My husband's favorite poet -- i think we have all of his writing!
Jun 12, 2009 rated it it was ok
Shelves: bookgroup
A 2.5, really. And I really didn't care for Bly's introduction. I'll have to try some of Stafford's that are his own collection.
Jul 28, 2010 rated it it was amazing
contains my favorite poem, "assurance."
Aug 03, 2012 rated it it was amazing
One of my top 3 favorite American poets.
Oct 22, 2012 rated it it was amazing
A fine collection of Stafford poems. I will read them often.
Jan 24, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Stafford is so right on.... I particularly love "an Oregon message"....
burn this!
Sep 30, 2014 rated it really liked it
Shelves: dead-poets
American Indian Proverb

– Never criticize a man until you’ve walked a mile in his moccasins.
Apr 28, 2015 rated it really liked it
Shelves: own, poetry
I like his collection of Native American poems the best, but each section has at least a few fantastic 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.

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,

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