William Stafford–A Giant Within

June 17th, 2010


We all have those giants within

Who have informed our thought and feeling,

Some speaking from foreign lands and long ago

Simply asking “Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day?”

Or telling us “This above all, to thine own self be true,”

Defining poetry as “What oft was thought, but ne’er so well express’d”

And affirming “One truth is clear, WHATEVER IS, IS RIGHT.”

Some of these giants even lived here in this country–

Perhaps most long before we were born–

Leaving us with stories of Evangeline and Hiawatha

The village blacksmith and Paul Revere’s ride,

Or stranger stories about Annabel Lee and Ulalume

Of “the viol, the violet, and the vine” in the City in the Sea,

Though certainly some have spoken to us in this century,

Voices on old records that are still memorable

As they were off taking the road less traveled by

Or stopping by woods in New England

Measuring out their lives with coffee spoons in London

While remembering the river flowing by St. Louis as a great brown god.

But were there giants in our time–giants standing among us in Kansas?

Yes, for a long time there was one,

One we often heard read his poems in his own voice,

About finding a dead deer in traveling through the dark

Or seeing the branding iron take the first snowflake,

And sometimes about things he had seen in Kansas–

Roadside Markers for West of Dodge

Or a path North of Liberal.

Though he was not much given to the traditional verse forms

Many of those giants of earlier ages favored,

When it begins to rain

One of his haiku may come to mind:

You again, raindrop,

the same as our first day–and,

yes, it’s me again.

I’ve been there and done that–and,

Even given the unusual punctuation,

Wish I’d said that–and other things he said.

Now, as people often put it, “He’s gone . . .

No longer among us,”

But, like those other giants, he’s still here within.

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First prize in the “theme” category, KAC contest, 1999

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