William Stafford

Another in the Style of William Stafford, my poem What's on My Desk

I adore the poem What’s in My Journal by William Stafford because it is deceptively simply and equally deep. You think you are going to read a list of tangible things and yet there is so much more. I want to revisit this poem and try to do the same but for today’s rough draft, I took the easy way out.


What’s on My Desk

Expected things, like pens and pencils. Art
things like crayons, scraps of handmade paper,
a paintbrush I forgot to wash. Stuffing from a
dog toy, stolen from the dog just before she ate
it. A Christmas card I forgot to mail. An empty water
bottle. A dirty coffee cup. Dead batteries and a dead fly.
Evidence of my poor housekeeping skills.
A paper dictionary I never use anymore. A quote
to help me be more focused. A rock I found in the
backyard. The collar from my only cat,
gone 10 years now. Two crumpled pieces of paper
torn from a notebook. My tolerance for clutter is high
yet I rarely work at my desk too surrounded by
things to sidetrack me from creating something new.

Susan Taylor Brown

In the Style of William Stafford – Things I Learned Last Week

There are a lot of examples of list-like poems but since I would swoon reading William Stafford laundry list so it’s no surprise that his poem, Things I Learned Last Week is one of my favorites.  Each line could be reworked into a poem of its own.

Here’s my first draft.


Things I Learned Last Year

Good friends
are not as large in number as you might think
when you first start counting.

Not everyone you meet will want to be your friend.

Just because you work with someone
doesn’t mean they are going to be your friend.
When you no longer share the same job,
don’t be surprised if you hear silence
instead of something more.

Some people you once called friend will turn out to
just be people you met once upon a time
and not much more.

Some people you hardly know will come to your rescue
before you realize you are in trouble.

Even when someone tells you it’s not about you
it still feels like it is all about you.

It’s up to you how to react to realtionship changes.

A real friend wants to hear all about you
even the yucky parts that might make them uncomfortable.

If a friend doesn’t understand
something  you’re doing or saying
or something you’re not doing or not saying
they’re not afraid to ask questions.

Sometimes it’s hard to be a good friend.
Sometimes it’s scary.
And sometimes it is a whole lot of really tough work.

Good friends are rare
and that’s a good thing I learned
because we take special care
with rare and beautiful things.

— Susan Taylor Brown

When I Met My Muse by William Stafford

I am reading William Stafford’s book, YOU MUST REVISE YOUR LIFE and will have much to report on when I am through. But for now I wanted to share this poem of his that speaks to me while I look for the hand of own muse.

When I Met My Muse

      I glanced at her and took my glasses
off–they were still singing. They buzzed
like a locust on the coffee table and then
ceased. Her voice belled forth, and the
sunlight bent. I felt the ceiling arch, and
knew that nails up there took a new grip
on whatever they touched. "I am your own
way of looking at things," she said. "When
you allow me to live with you, every
glance at the world around you will be
a sort of salvation." And I took her hand.

William Stafford

Irene Latham has the Poetry Friday Round-up today. Why not head over and see what other lovely poems are just waiting to be discovered?

Friday, January 7, 2011|Categories: Poetry Friday|Tags: , |16 Comments

Notice What This Poem is Not Doing by William Stafford

Okay, I’m editing this entry to add a couple of comments I didn’t have time for this morning. I have no idea what the answer is to the question asked in the title of this poem. The only thing I came up with was that it didn’t rhyme which is what some people think makes something a poem. Other people are responding with their own thoughts but I must confess that I feel better knowing I’m not the only one a wee bit perplexed by it.


The light along the hills in the morning
comes down slowly, naming the trees
white, then coasting the ground for stones to nominate.

Notice what this poem is not doing.

A house, a house, a barn, the old
quarry, where the river shrugs–
how much of this place is yours?

Notice what this poem is not doing.

Every person gone has taken a stone
to hold, and catch the sun. The carving
says, “Not here, but called away.”

Notice what this poem is not doing.

The sun, the earth, the sky, all wait.
The crowns and redbirds talk. The light
along the hills has come, has found you.

Notice what this poem has not done.

— William Stafford

Friday, April 13, 2007|Categories: Poetry Friday|Tags: , |9 Comments