Writing I Like: William Stafford

Start with the premise that I can’t stand reading anything that follows anywhere along the lines of, “I saw the glistening stippled beauty of its form inhale my meagerly tied offering, and the line went taught, and for a few brief moments the rainbow and I, our souls merged into one…” Right. (If that’s your thing, sorry man, no offense.)

In contrast, here’s some great stuff (according to me at least) from William Stafford:

Traveling through the Dark

Traveling through the dark I found a deer
dead on the edge of the Wilson River road.
It is usually best to roll them into the canyon:
that road is narrow; to swerve might make more dead.

By glow of the tail-light I stumbled back of the car
and stood by the heap, a doe, a recent killing;
she had stiffened already, almost cold.
I dragged her off; she was large in the belly.

My fingers touching her side brought me the reason—
her side was warm; her fawn lay there waiting,
alive, still, never to be born.
Beside that mountain road I hesitated.

The car aimed ahead its lowered parking lights;
under the hood purred the steady engine.
I stood in the glare of the warm exhaust turning red;
around our group I could hear the wilderness listen.

I thought hard for us all—my only swerving—,
then pushed her over the edge into the river.

[Also check out At The Bomb Testing Site]

8 thoughts on “Writing I Like: William Stafford”

  1. Pete,

    hauntingly true, we so often push what we choose to ignore over the cliffs of our mind – focusing on the flora -aware, but unwilling to except the dying beneath the foilage.


  2. We are all aware that this is “according to you” Pete, try not to dumb down your own narcissism next time. And just so we can try to understand your lofty opinions, what is it exactly about the first example which fails to appeal to your senses? and furthermore what is it about the subsequent ‘poem’ that succeeds in appealing to your senses? A poem from a pacifist…man, the interpretations are just endless, the subject matter absolutely thought provoking, and the imagery, oh the imagery, so subtle and poingant. Is the poem an allegory for our “toungue and cheek” behavior? Really Barb, try not to go to deep with this one.

  3. Since you asked, here are some direct answers: 1. I dislike writing that attempts to paint some sort of romantic or mystical bond achieved between a man and an animal through fishing or hunting. I think it’s bullshit.

    2. I like writing that deals in harshness.

    3. Aren’t you guilty of the same thing of which you accuse me? Check out your review of “Tarpon” on the fin.com:


    Here you go through an endless paragraph telling us what you dislike about every other fishing video you’ve ever watched, talk about how they’re “redneck raping” and accuse Jimmy Houston of stealing chidlrens’ innocence. Tongue in Cheek?

    Then you go on to provide your LOFTY opinion of why this one is different, and YOU tell us why we should respect your opinion about the DVD above all else. Because YOU get it, YOU get what fishing is all about–with the implication being that anyone who doesn’t see it the way YOU do is an idiot.

    Then you come on my blog and rip the interviewer of Guy de la Valdene, actually calling him an idiot:


    Even though the man giving the interview is a former Key West tarpon fly fishing guide, giving him expert credentials, who also happens to be the guy who convinced the films’ producers to release it on DVD in the first place, and was the driving force behind getting it issued… Umm… Narcissism?

  4. Not to continue a raspy discourse, for starters don’t misinterperet a satirical and critical analysis of what is now modern day outdoor entertainment for ‘toungue and cheeky’ dialogue. I think you would be hard pressed to find many ‘learned outdoorsman’ who would fail to find irony, falsitude, and a general denegration amongst many outdoor oriented broadcasts. As for tarpon, those guys did ‘get it’, and though I may not ‘get it’, I not only respect their contribution to fishing as a sport but also their perspectives on life in a much grander scope. Though I don’t mean to typecast and ostrasize anyone for their views on the sport or any of the topics for which I have written about, I feel like unfortunately, narcisism comes riding on the coattails of the “job” that is blogging; whether we choose to wear it on our shirts or not is a different story. As far as Marshall Cutchin goes, I am aware of his credentials, and I do respect him and his blog. In repudiating his interviewing techniques, in no way did i intend to comment on is credentials or character. I don’t believe I ever made that connection. Thanks for answering my questions and look forward to more of our blog.

  5. Fair enough. We can at least both agree that Tarpon is now the gold standard against which any other fly fishing video or documentary should be judged. On another note, I don’t consider it narcissism, more of a platform for expression. A personal blog is a personal blog, right? If it’s not a reflection of your thoughts and views, what’s the point of doing it at all?

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