A Pacifist's Plainspoken Poetry

Poet William Stafford in Oswego, Ore.

hide captionWilliam Stafford poses on a street in Oswego, Ore., on Aug. 26, 1966.

Associated Press

Lyman and Stafford

The poet William Stafford was born in Kansas in 1914, coming of age in the period between the two world wars.

He grew into a pacifist — one, he said, of the "quiet of the land" — and a plainspoken poet. As a pacifist, he spent the years 1942-46 working in outdoor camps and projects for conscientious objectors in Arkansas, California and Illinois. In these camps, he established his habit of waking before dawn to write.

Toward the end of his life, Stafford spoke with NPR contributor Henry Lyman, the longtime host of the public radio program Poems to a Listener.

All Things Considered concludes its April poetry series with Stafford's 1990 interview. Stafford described his relationship to the land and the ways in which the "lucky mistakes" of writing flow together, like a river's current, to guide the direction of a poem.

Stafford died in Lake Oswego, Ore., in 1993.

Books Featured In This Story

The Darkness Around Us Is Deep
The Darkness Around Us Is Deep

Selected Poems of William Stafford

by William Stafford and Robert Bly

Paperback, 138 pages | purchase

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Purchase Featured Books

  • The Darkness Around Us Is Deep
  • Selected Poems of William Stafford
  • William Stafford and Robert Bly
Way It Is
Way It Is

New & Selected Poems

by William Stafford

Paperback | purchase

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  • Way It Is
  • New & Selected Poems
  • William Stafford
Crossing Unmarked Snow
Crossing Unmarked Snow

Further Views on the Writer's Vocation

by William Stafford, Paul Merchant and Vincent Wixon

Paperback, 157 pages | purchase

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  • Crossing Unmarked Snow
  • Further Views on the Writer's Vocation
  • William Stafford, Paul Merchant, et al

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