More on Writing from William Stafford


 So in the previous post about so called “creative genius” I quoted one of my poetry heroes, William Stafford, and since it took some searching to find the quotes I was attempting to recall, I naturally found some other gems from the man that I thought were worth sharing. But tonight I’ll not try to make his words fit my needs and theories, but instead will just share a few snippets of his wisdom. Aside from the first lines which tie in with what I was wrote in response to Colin’s thoughts on the topic, and my own about artists being “receptors,” these quotes are in no particular scheme or order. I’ll just dump out the colored blocks here and let you sort out any that you fancy.  I wouldn’t be surprised if you started looking up more of his words on your own, in fact I encourage it.

From A Way of Writing: 

…Along with initial receptivity, then, there is another readiness: I must be willing to fail. If I am to keep on writing, I cannot bother to insist on high standards. I must get into action and not let anything stop me, or even slow me much. By “standards” I do not mean “correctness” spelling, punctuation, and so on. These details become mechanical for anyone who writes for a while. I am thinking about such matters as social significance, positive values, consistency, etc…. I resolutely disregard these. Something better, greater, is happening! I am following a process that leads so wildly and originally into new territory that no judgment can at the moment be made about values, significance, and so on. I am making something new, something that has not been judged before. Later others–and maybe I myself–will make judgments. Now, I am headlong to discover…

…Writers may not be special or talented in any usual sense. They are simply engaged in sustained use of a language skill we all have. Their “creations” come about through confident reliance on stray impulses that will, with trust, find occasional patterns that are satisfying.

From Interview with Paris Review, the Art of Poetry:


Do you usually do several versions of a poem?


Yes, I do. I write fast. I’ve been labeled by some as being a poet who writes too easily and therefore gets out a lot of junk. However, things that interest me I go back over. I do not feel committed to the idea that my work is perfect without my going back over it. Sometimes I go back over it many, many times. No matter how many times I go over it I don’t ever feel that it’s finished or that it has settled into what Yeats suggested—it clicks and therefore it’s correct. I don’t think that correctness or absolute rightness is in the realm of human possibility. So work is always revisable, as far as I’m concerned.


6 Comments Add yours

  1. I will say this for you David…you are a very loyal follower of Stafford…!! Good for you.


    1. sonofwalt says:

      haha, well, I suppose it might seem that way, but I think that following someone only happens when they already think the way I do. As my mother used to say, “You can always spot a well informed man; his views are the same as yous.”

      Hmmm now it sounds like my ego is just complimenting Stafford for being worthy of my praise. 😉


  2. Bruce Ruston says:

    a very interesting post i really enjoyed reading it


    1. sonofwalt says:

      Thanks, Bruce! I appreciate it.


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