2003 Pacific Northwest Booksellers Association Award
Synopses & Reviews
With incredible insight and love, Kim Stafford offers a view into the remarkable life of his father, the poet William Stafford
The unspoken deep affection he lived by was like the idea in his poem about the Eskimos—their disdain for "People who talk about God." In his world, a fact so pervasive as love never need be named.
William Stafford wrote a poem nearly every day of his life, most often before dawn, as he lay on a much-used couch that bore the imprint of his body after years of use. He was a prolific, highly acclaimed poet, famous pacifist, and extraordinary friend to nearly everyone he met. But Kim was given perhaps his father's greatest gift—and greatest challenge—to be his literary executor.
Carefully sifting through his father's papers—thousands of poems written on napkins, grocery receipts, letters—Kim follows a copious trail of words matched only by his father's silences. Kim is able to visit his father's life in a deeply personal way and, as a result, beautifully illuminates William Stafford as someone who was unafraid to stare into emptiness and to live a life so fully in the moment that he was able to touch countless lives with a single poem.
"As a book written by a son warily loving an enigmatic, elusive father, this is a masterpiece."--Robert Bly
"I don't want to write good poems. I want to write inevitable poems."--William Stafford
As in his poem about the Eskimos -- their disdain for "People who talk about God" -- William Stafford practiced oblique affection. In his world, a fact as pervasive as love never need be named.
William Stafford wrote a poem every day, most often before dawn. He was a prolific, highly acclaimed poet, a famous pacifist, and an extraordinary friend to many. To his son Kim he gave the great gift and challenge -- to sift through the mysteries of his writing life as literary executor.
Through the landscape of his father's thousands of poems, Kim follows a thread of illuminations matched only by his father's resonant silences. Kim accompanies his father's life as writer and seeker, someone unafraid to stare into the dark, and from that place touch countless lives with a poem, a tough but affectionate philosophic sculpture.
A prolific writer, a famous pacifist, a respected teacher, and a literary mentor to many, William Stafford is one of the great American poets of the twentieth century. His first major collection--Traveling Through the Dark
--won the National Book Award. He published more than sixty-five volumes of poetry and prose and was Poetry Consultant to the Library of Congress-a position now known as the Poet Laureate. Before his death in 1993, he gave his son Kim the greatest gift and challenge: to be his literary executor.
In Early Morning, Kim creates an intimate portrait of a father and son who shared many passions: archery, photography, carpentry, and finally, writing itself. But Kim also confronts the great paradox at the center of William Stafford's life. The public man, the poet who was always communicating with warmth and feeling-even with strangers-was capable of profound, and often painful, silence within the family. By piecing together a collage of his personal and family memories, and sifting through thousands of pages of his father's daily writing and poems, Kim illuminates a fascinating and richly lived life.
About the Author
was born in Kansas in 1914 and is the author of over fifty books. He received the National Book Award for Traveling Through the Dark.
Kim Stafford is an Artist in Residence and Director of the Northwest Writing Institute at Lewis & Clark College in Oregon.
Read exclusive essays by Kim Stafford from 2012