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William Stafford Biography

(1914–1993), West of Your City, Travelling Through the Dark, The Rescued Year, Temporary Facts, Going Places

American poet, born in Hutchinson, Kansas, educated at the universities of Kansas and Iowa. Stafford was one of the most prolific of twentieth-century American poets, though much of his work appeared in little magazines or been published by small presses, and he did not enjoyed the fame of some of his contemporaries. He is frequently associated with the American tradition of transcendentalism exemplified by the writings of Emerson and Thoreau, but there is also in his work the kind of sturdiness and linguistic clarity which entered American poetry through the influence of Robert Frost. He was, to some extent, a regional poet exploiting the landscapes of the Midwest and far West, though he was able to invest what was familiar to him with a sense of universal significance. Among his many volumes of verse are West of Your City (1960), Travelling Through the Dark (1962; National Book Award, 1963), The Rescued Year (1966), Temporary Facts (1970), Going Places (1974), Stories That Could Be True: New and Collected Poems (1977), The Quiet of the Land (1979), Things That Happen When There Aren't Any People (1980), A Glass Face in the Rain: New Poems (1982), Smoke's Way: Poems from Limited Editions (1983), Listening Deep (1984), Annie-over: Poems (1988), Passwords (1991), The Darkness Around Us Is Deep: Selected Poems (1993), and Learning to Live in the World: Earth Poems (1994). As a consequence of his religious beliefs Stafford was a conscientious objector during the Second World War and his experiences of his work in a labour camp are recorded in a prose memoir, Down in My Heart (1947). His poetry criticism includes Friends to This Ground: A Statement for Readers, Teachers, and Writers of Literature (1967). See Understanding William Stafford (1989) by Judith Kitchen.

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Literature Reference: American Literature, English Literature, Classics & Modern FictionEncyclopedia of Literature: Souvenirs to St Joan of the Stockyards (Die heilige Johanna der Schlachthöfe)