A Poem For Saturday

Andrew Sullivan —  Jan 11 2014 @ 8:32am

stafford1

A Dish reader recently alerted us to the fact that 2014 is the centennial anniversary of the poet William Stafford’s birth in Hutchinson, Kansas. (He resided in Oregon for most of his adult life, was named Oregon’s Poet Laureate in 1975, and died there in 1993.) In 1998, Graywolf Press published The Way It Is: New & Selected Poems. The first two sections are devoted to poems Stafford wrote in the last two years of his life. This weekend we’ll be running three poems from The Way It Is and, in the future, we’ll post more from the new volume Graywolf has just released to mark the centennial, Ask Me: 100 Essential Poems of William Stafford. Here’s “Identities” by William Stafford:

If a life could own another life—
a wolf a deer, a fish a bird,
a man a tree—who would
exchange a life with me?

Dark in the forest a path
goes down; soft as moss
a voice comes on: my hand
on bark, my stilled face alone—

Then water, then gravel, then stone.

(From The Way It Is: New & Selected Poems by William Stafford © 1998 by the Estate of William Stafford. Used by permission of Graywolf Press. Photo by Mike Haller)