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In cooperation with the Library of Congress National Public Radio presents one of a series of lecture readings recorded during the 1970 71 season under the auspices of the Gertrude Clark with all poetry and literature fund of the library. William Stafford poetry consultant reads and discusses his poetry introducing Mr. Stanford is Dr. Quincy Ella Mumford librarian for the Library of Congress. For her. Good evening ladies and gentleman. I'm quite some I'm going Librarian of Congress and the two following plays you are welcoming all of you to the opening of the 1970 71 season a mentoring programs that will be presented here in the Golden Age on Atari M and resent William Stafford and his various confessional appearance here as 1977 and one can sound
in poetry. To them I'm a convert. You'll be seeing more of him as the season goes forward and I hope you'll return and bring your friends with you for a future evenings. He will introduce his fell apart. In their readings and lead them in lively talk. On the stage. This evening however belongs to him following his reading. We would like to invite all of you to come down the hall to the wet dog of an adjoining here. To meet him personally. At an informal party. Mr. Stafford comes to us from again where he's been professor of English at Lewis and Clark College and Portland since 1948. With him to live in McLean Virginia game is wife and two of their four children. The older two children remaining in the northwest. To
attend college and graduate school. He was born in Hutchinson Kansas and grew up in a small Kansas town. During college summers he worked as a laborer a laborer and sugar beet fields in an oil refinery. And construction work. He took a B.A. Degree in 1937 and master's degree in 1945 both from the University of Kansas. In 1954 he received his Ph.D. degree from the State University of Iowa. His letter on a single day Guggenheim Fellowship which enabled him to devote 1966 67 to his poetry chalet Memorial Award. He had no foundation award. The National Book Award in 1963 for his book in time. Travelling through the dark. First prize this
past summer. In the Chicago Tribune poetry awards and others. His published works include West of your city published in 1960 traveling through the dark 1962 the rescued year 1966 temporary facts 907 and legions is 1970 and others high regard in which by critics and from the poets alike is shared already by those of us at the library who know him. A gentle man. A strong poet. I am confident that you and I can work just William Stafford. Thank you. Each time we stood by the library
it was say an October night. Priests and sisters of hundreds of unsaid creeds passed us going their separate ponder robes. We watched them cross under the corner light. Freights on the edge of town were carrying away flat cars of steel to be made into secret guns. We knew being human that they were enemy guns and we were somehow about poverty. No one stopped or looked long or held out a hand. They were following orders received from hour to hour. So many signals all strange from a foreign power. But tomorrow we say peace may flow over the land. At that corner in a flash of lightning we all stand.
That limits we had will stare through the dark forever. On the poorest roads we may be walkers and beggars toward some deathless meeting involving a crust of bread. Mr. Mumford. Ladies and gentleman I felt that I should start by plunging into something like a poem. This doesn't mean that I neglect those feelings of gratitude for the introduction. It means that I know that tonight. It's too late to do anything other than rely on the poem is already written. But I have put them together in a certain sequence and it occurred to me to try this evening to make a move toward.
Whatever spaciousness I feel. Poetry could have hands I start with something that starts with the library standing by the library. I don't know if the program will seem to use spacious and various But to me it is. I want to make a lunge now toward something called religion back home. When God's parachute failed along about the spring of 1945 the sky in Texas jerked open and we all sailed easily into this new strange harness on the stars. This poem has four parts all short. That's Part 1 part 2 of religion back home. Is the minister smoked and he drank and there was that woman in the choir. But what really finished him. He wore spats.
Part three of religion back home is a short review of Samson Agonistes D's written for Miss Arrington's class and liberal high school. Our Father who art in heaven can lick their father who art in heaven. The last part of religion back home. This is the last of this. This little impulse. When my little brother chanted in 14 92 Jesus cross the ocean. Mother said Bob. You mean Columbus crossed the ocean. And he said. I always did get them two guys mixed. Well I don't I'm not sure at all that what this is though it was published as a poem. I'm not sure what it is. I want to. I want to take a stand for writers. The reason I paused was I didn't want to say poets I just want to say writers
and speakers who use the language we all use and enhance it a little bit. And I don't even think they have to enhance it very much. I'm willing to give these people the benefit of the doubt and that's what I'm looking for tonight. The benefit of the doubt. Well I want to read something called This is not like this is to me this isn't quite a turn away from religion back home. Call it a walk in the country. To walk anywhere in the world to live now to speak to breathe the harmless breath what snowflake even may try today. So why so mild to death. Out in the country once walking the hollow night I felt a burden of silver my back had caught moonlight pouring through the trees like money
that walk was late though late I gently came into town and a terrible thing had happened. The world wide unbearably Bright had leaped on me. I carried mountains though there was much I knew though kind people turned away. I walked there ashamed into that still picture to bring my fear and pain. By dawn I felt all right my hair was covered with dew and the light was bearable. The air came still cool and God had come back there to carry the world again. Since then while all over the world the wind of Peel's events and people contend like food like a stubborn tumbleweed.
I hold hold of where I live and look into every face. O friends where can one find a partner for the last dance over the fields. I can remember being in school and hearing someone a sophisticated person in Kansas say that. Programs. Were something more than sequences and. Something began to dawn on me. A little. She told us never to Kyoto. Let me tell you my third story in the last. I had a little pond in the woods I decided. This is the center of my life. I threw a big stick far out to be all the burdens from earlier years. Ever since I have been walking lightly looking around out of the
woods. One other thing. From any hero What if he came back astounded to find his name so honored schools named after him aflame at his tomb. His careless words cherished. How could he ever face the people again knowing all he would know in that great clarity of the other side. His eyes flare into the eyes of his wife. He searches his brother's drawn faces turned toward him suddenly still now. Better abandon in the ground recklessly cast back into the trace of our atoms all once let languish. A lost civilization loses by particulars. They the road by faithless treating its servants.
Remember this slippery progress the hearse made when dealing importantly where faces could never really turn round. Our voices apologize for such chill engulfing perspectives. We look deep into the branded time helplessly and then come chattering back for assurance to shore up our relics are no such effort it takes to build the high walls of wrong. I want to cite. Finally two poems from sojourners in the poetry office. The first. Sensei. Said I wanted to be direct. Not ritualistic formal. The first is by the former consultant I most easily understand from Congeniality and sympathy. Read more. It's called the party.
They serve tea in the sand pile together with mud pies baked on the sidewalk. After tea the youngest said that he had had a good dinner. The oldest dressed for a dance and they sallied forth together with watering pots. The moistened eye rested firetruck on account of it might rain. I watched from my study. I thought of my part in these contributions to world gayety and result that the very least acknowledgment I could make would be to join them. So we all took our watering pots filled with pies and poured tea on our dog. Then I kissed the children and told them that when they grew up. We would have real tea parties that did be fun. The youngest shouted and ate pies with wild surmise.
Another example and I cheated a little here when I said US sojourner in the office. This is from the work of Justin Jacobson who will be here next year comes in next fall. It's called the stranger and Corrigan. I asked Corrigan about the man alone at the Woods who stood in shadow. The motionless stranger. He did not stir or speak and he bore in his face and eyes the marks perhaps of terrible cold and certainly hunger. I had come through the journey alive and into the field. And the sun would have warmed the dead and made them answer and I saw the way he stood in his coat and hands. A stranger returned from this trip is more close than a brother. So I spoke the word of the way and he answered once but he never moved or came
through the windy flowers. And I said to Corrigan he is one of them. But he will not smile or speak only watches the mowers. The field will be gone I said while he stands and looks. Tell him I am one. Though I went it is true in summer. But Corrigan would not question him and the mowers moved right in the glitter of grasses toward the newcomer. Bitter and strange I agree. In summer as in winter but different in winter. Also Corrigan said. Tell me. When you went and lived and returned. Did you travel alone and without bread. I like the strangeness of this poem and I want to use it here at the end to try to justify any strangeness in going back
roving over the experiences of this year looking for anything that will come out not as anticipated not as programmed into the job but as a result. I want to use the strangeness of this poem to justify this talk and I can't help feeling that this poem. Bodes well for the continued strangeness of this job that I found wonderfully congenial. A job I've tried to identify in an odd way with these left overs. So I say just a fiend Jacobson stranger. Come to the office take up this effort. Look people in the eye who ask you casually or late after a party when even the most cautious can assume good will. What does the poetry office do. What was
that. You have been listening to a lecture by William Stafford a consultant in poetry for the Library of Congress. This was another in a series of lecture readings recorded at the Library of Congress in Washington D.C. under the auspices of the Gertrude Clark Woodhall poetry and literature apartment. This is National Public Radio.
Library of Congress
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Chicago: “Library of Congress; Sample,” 1972-00-00, University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC, accessed November 28, 2023,
MLA: “Library of Congress; Sample.” 1972-00-00. University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Web. November 28, 2023. <>.
APA: Library of Congress; Sample. Boston, MA: University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Retrieved from