His "Way of Writing" was associative. Allowing himself plenty of time without distractions, he would get up early to write (a habit from being a conscientious objector during WWII and working in camps in the States before they put him to work) and he would write whatever came--sensory, visual stimuli; words. This seemed to be critical to his process which he called receptivity. He'd let that suggest something else. From there he felt free to use reason/intentionality/eloquence.
In writing "Ask Me", he states that in both the writing and revision, he was following a feeling. [Turner's 50 Contemporary Poets: The Creative Process]
Curiously, his influence as a poet has waned. It's hard to pinpoint when, but sometime after his death, the space he occupied in retrospective anthologies (even ones that expanded) decreased to match the relatively minor poets. Why? Is it the seeming simplicity? Or a desire not to see "The Way It Is" or "accepting what comes"?
If it's his plainspoken simplicity, possibly it has outworn its welcome for a time and may circle back around again.
Here are five of my favorite Stafford poems. Stew on them until they release their savor to you.
- "Traveling through the Dark" -- heartbreaking signature poem, emblematic of his perspective: "The Way It Is"
- "At the Bomb Testing Site"
- "A Story That Could Be True"
- "Waiting in Line" (at the end of file)
- "A Certain Bend" (The whole poem is there, but it isn't properly lineated. Definitely, look up the original. From the first issue of Missouri Review. )
Great lines from "Waiting in Line":
A poetry writing book pointed out the attitude toward the young in the first two lines. But zeroing in on that misses out on the larger picture since it is a poem about the continuity. See the title again. Genius. Beautiful, funny and moving.the nation of the young, like jungle birdsthat scream as they pass, or gyrate on playgrounds,their frenzied bodies jittering with the diseaseof youth. Knowledge can cure them. Butnot all at once. It will take time.
Hundreds more poems:
Poetry Magazine (their lengthy biography)