Sunday, October 24, 2010

Sunday Sabbath Poetry: William Stafford

Like Ted Kooser last week (except that Kooser is still with us!), William Stafford was a great American poet of the 20th century, and in 1970 was appointed the Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry to the U.S. Library of Congress. He was also a pacifist and a registered conscientious objector who was put to the service camps during World War II. Born and raised in Kansas, he lived and taught for the most part in Oregon; apparently he wrote more than 22,000 poems in his life, and around 3,000 or so are published. He died in 1993.

The poem below is from his collection The Rescued Year, published in 1965.

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By William Stafford

Sometimes up out of this land
a legend begins to move.
Is it a coming near
of something under love?

Love is of the earth only,
the surface, a map of roads
leading wherever go miles
or little bushes nod.

Not so the legend under,
fixed, inexorable,
deep as the darkest mine
the thick rocks won't tell.

As fire burns the leaf
and out of the green appears
the vein in the center line
and the legend veins under there,

So, the world happens twice --
once what we see it as;
second it legends itself
deep, the way it is.

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