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The Way It Is: New and Selected Poems

4.48  ·  Rating details ·  695 ratings  ·  48 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 The Way It Is: New and Selected Poems gathers unpublished works from his last year, including the poem he wrote the day he died, as well as an essential and wide-ranging selection of works from throughout his care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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4.48  · 
Rating details
 ·  695 ratings  ·  48 reviews

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Sherry Chandler
Nov 22, 2009 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: thepoets
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
Oct 16, 2010 rated it really liked it
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
Dec 29, 2008 rated it it was amazing
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".
Grady McCallie
Jan 23, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: poetry-favorites
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
Jan 26, 2010 rated it it was amazing
'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..
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.
Feb 25, 2012 rated it it was amazing
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.
Emmett Moore
Jul 19, 2011 rated it liked it
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.
Jan 19, 2010 rated it liked it
Shelves: poetry
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.
Harold Bowes
May 25, 2008 rated it really liked it
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.
Aug 08, 2007 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: poetry
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.
Sep 30, 2008 rated it it was amazing
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
Jul 13, 2009 rated it really liked it
"Right has a long and intricate name./ And the saying of it is a lonely thing."
Mar 09, 2010 rated it really liked it
Just outstanding. Unpretentious, thoughtful, simple, excellent poetry.
David Bjorlin
Jul 07, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Along with Denise Levertov, W.H. Auden, Mary Oliver, Jane Kenyon, and Naomi Shihab Nye (one of Stafford's students), this collection of Stafford rocketed him into my poetic hall of fame. Too many good ones to quote.
Rodney Rauch
Apr 05, 2019 rated it it was amazing
He's got such an odd, interesting and individual way of seeing the world. He continually astonishes me.
Madeleine Lesieutre
I picked this up, in great part, because Naomi Shihab Nye (I love her poetry) has written about how William Stafford inspired her a lot. In fact, the preface of this collection was written by her (and it was very nice). Additionally, I was intrigued by Stafford because he lived in Oregon, and worked at Lewis and Clark College. So, I liked the book alright; there were poems here and there that I really enjoyed. There were a lot of anti-war/ conscientious objector poems. They were super accessible ...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 -
John Orman
Jan 29, 2014 rated it it was amazing
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
Nov 11, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Stafford is just wonderful. These poems are some of the best I've read for their freshness and heart. I read a review recently from the New York Review of Books suggesting that Stafford is sort of a one trick pony and that that trick isn't all that impressive. It argued that he wrote too many poems and that a sign of having nothing to say is saying too much. The only Stafford I've read are the several hundred pages of poems in this book, and for me, this was just the right amount. I do see a ten ...more
Tom Hill
Dec 05, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites, poetry, 5-stars

Grass that was moving found all shades of brown,
moved them along, flowed autumn away
galloping southward where summer had gone.
And that was the morning someone’s heart stopped
and all became still. A girl said, “Forever?”
And the grass. “Yes. Forever.” While the sky —
The sky — the sky — the sky.

I love William Stafford. His poems are accessible and responsive to "the small, the plain, the apparently usual" (W.S. Merwin). Some standouts: "Once in the 40s," "With
Mar 06, 2013 rated it really liked it
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.
Aug 23, 2015 rated it really liked it
Shelves: poetry
William Stafford was a prolific poet, writing over 20,000 poems with over 3,000 actually published-- including one composed the day he died. That's a guy with something to say. Filled with a sense of calmness, wonder, and also melancholy, Stafford's poems may seem easy to skim through, but often reveal deeper truths when you circle back around. Profound, honest, and inspired by a life lived with attention and insight.
Oct 29, 2015 rated it really liked it
I regret that I have only recently discovered the magnificent tenderness of this man's poetry. This book represents a pretty impressive and successful effort of dipping a tiny cup into an oceanic body of work produced almost every single day over the course of an entire lifetime and coming up with a collection that does a fantastic job of presenting a deep and engaging portrait. For any of my friends who are poetry fans, I cannot recommend this enough.
Jul 30, 2013 rated it really liked it
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.
Sep 30, 2015 rated it liked it
Some of William Stafford's poetry in this book is enjoyable and some is so inscrutable that I wondered how it got published and why he is so lauded as a poet. He is the great influencer of one of my most favorite poets, Naomi Shihab Nye, so I expected to love his poetry as much as hers, but I see little relationship between their poems. I still love Nye far more than Stafford.
Barry Harris
Apr 15, 2009 rated it it was amazing
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.
Anthony Clair
Jan 24, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: poetry, nonfiction
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.
Melanie Kay
Apr 18, 2016 rated it it was amazing
One of the great discoveries of my life was William Stafford. I went to school for a few years in Astoria, OR, and was introduced to this amazing poet. He isn't very well known outside of Oregon, but he should be! His work is brilliant and profound.
Julie Johnson
Dec 12, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Every poem offers something --
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  • Smoke
  • Words Under the Words: Selected Poems
  • After
  • Sun Under Wood
  • Silence in the Snowy Fields
  • Otherwise: New and Selected Poems
  • Alive Together
  • Where Water Comes Together with Other Water: Poems
  • Making Certain It Goes On: The Collected Poems of Richard Hugo
  • Black Zodiac
  • Velocities: New and Selected Poems, 1966-1992
  • The Collected Poems, 1957-1982
  • Without: Poems
  • Riprap and Cold Mountain Poems
  • Blessing the Boats: New and Selected Poems, 1988-2000
  • The Human Line
  • The Collected Poems
  • Scrambled Eggs and Whiskey
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,
“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.”
“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.”
More quotes…