Posted by: Philip Carr-Gomm | April 12, 2010

The Poetry of William Stafford

Atavism by William Stafford
Discovering a new poet who inspires you is like coming across a beautiful and strange treasure hidden in the forest…
Sometimes in the open you look up
where birds go by, or just nothing,
and wait. A dim feeling comes
you were like this once, there was air,
and quiet; it was by a lake, or
maybe a river you were alert
as an otter and were suddenly born
like the evening star into wide
still worlds like this one you have found
again, for a moment, in the open.

Something is being told in the woods: aisles of
shadow lead away; a branch waves;
a pencil of sunlight slowly travels its
path. A withheld presence almost
speaks, but then retreats, rustles
a patch of brush. You can feel
the centuries ripple generations
of wandering, discovering, being lost
and found, eating, dying, being born.
A walk through the forest strokes your fur,
the fur you no longer have. And your gaze
down a forest aisle is a strange, long
plunge, dark eyes looking for home.
For delicious minutes you can feel your whiskers
wider than your mind, away out over everything.


  1. Beatiful and stunning! Evocative of some of David Whyte’s work, even.

    Especially poignant for me today, as I spotted a lovely little garter snake on my walk back from lunch.

    I wonder what she thought of me, as I watched her weave through the dried leaves and undergrowth, her presence more a gift to me than I could ever be to her.

  2. Beautiful!

  3. A wondrous poem and poet. The wind is strong here tonight reminding me of the retreat on IONA so long ago. I have never felt wind so strong and so full of elemental magic as on IONA. It was dark, intense. I felt lost then at times, as now. The poem helps me see what feels lost at times, the magic inside the space of nature, within me. Sometimes, I get too tired to access it. Thanks for the poem. M

  4. Oh, yes. I remember that feeling.

    Perhaps some day again.

  5. Looked into WS a little further, inspired by the beautiful poem that you posted. He’s a wonderful poet. Really like the following…

    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

  6. Wonderful! Thank you for giving me a new poet to explore. Oh, I know that ‘whisker feeling’ so well! đŸ™‚

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s


%d bloggers like this: