Thursday, February 10, 2011

A Ritual To Read To Each Other by William Stafford

Post 596 - William Edgar Stafford was born in Hutchinson, Kansas, on January 17, 1914, the eldest of three children. He graduated from the University of Kansas in 1937. In 1939 he enrolled at the University of Wisconsin to begin graduate studies in Economics, but by the next year he had returned to Kansas to earn his master's degree in English in 1947. In 1948 he moved to Oregon to teach at Lewis and Clark College. Though he traveled and read his poems widely, he taught at Lewis and Clark until his retirement in 1980. Stafford won the National Book Award in 1963 and went on to publish more than sixty-five volumes of poetry and prose. Among his many honors and awards were a Shelley Memorial Award, a Guggenheim Fellowship, and a Western States Lifetime Achievement Award in Poetry. In 1970, he was the Consultant in Poetry to the Library of Congress (a position currently known as the Poet Laureate). He died at his home in Lake Oswego, Oregon, on August 28, 1993.
He believed that “A writer is not so much someone who has something to say as he is someone who has found a process that will bring about new things he would not have thought of if he had not started to say them.”

A Ritual To Read To Each Other by William Stafford

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.

For there is many a small betrayal in the mind,
a shrug that lets the fragile sequence break
sending with shouts the horrible errors of childhood
storming out to play through the broken dyke.

And as elephants parade holding each elephant's tail,
but if one wanders the circus won't find the park,
I call it cruel and maybe the root of all cruelty
to know what occurs but not recognize the fact.

And so I appeal to a voice, to something shadowy,
a remote important region in all who talk:
though we could fool each other, we should consider -
lest the parade of our mutual life get lost in the dark.

For it is important that awake people be awake,
or a breaking line may discourage them back to sleep;
the signals we give - yes or no, or maybe -
should be clear: the darkness around us is deep.

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