Day 11 – DaPoRecMo: “The Way It Is,” by William Stafford

"The Way It Is," by William Stafford
“The Way It Is,” by William Stafford

DaPo. . . wha? Yes, well, I realized I was calling this project NaPoRecMo, and then I realized that I hadn’t exactly started a national movement here for recording poems. This is just me here, David, the self-appointed “Dad Poet,” recording poems that I like, old favorites and new discoveries. There is really no set rule about it.

Last year during Poetry Month I felt a little pressured to bring you not just poems I liked, but a wide variety of poets, thirty in fact, including myself, and a representation of some of the best from Shakespeare, to Wallace Stevens, to Billy Collins.

It was a great challenge, and impossible to do such a goal justice with just thirty poems (of course it helps to throw in the bonus tracks), so this year I decided just to have fun with it. Poetry is one of the joys of my life so why get all self-important about it? So I’ve been reading a lot of new poems, even some that are only new to me, a few of them written by poets I thought I knew well.

Although William Stafford is a favorite (I’ve recorded at least 13 of his poems), I didn’t know today’s poem until I recently found that photo there on your left (click on it for the larger, readable version.), and unfortunately I cannot remember where this came from. Someone on WordPress, I think, posted about finding it carved into this stone in a park somewhere. Jenifer Bullis might know, as she has stumbled upon Stafford poems in the woods before, more specifically along the Methow River in Washington State where Stafford was commissioned by the National Park Service to write poems for roadside signs. If I’ve lifted the photo from your blog or a blog you’ve read, please let me know so I can link to it and give the proper credit.

This is only day eleven of the thirty days of Poetry Month (notice, I dropped the nationalism?), so there is a lot ahead to explore, including some bloggers in the neighborhood to visit. We’ll pop in on some of my favorites and see what they are up to. I’m not the only one recording, and many of them are writing and recording their own good work, and a few do it all year round, not just in April. So I hope you are enjoying the trip.

A Red-winged Blackbirds in George C. Reifel Mi...
Red-winged Blackbirds . Female is in the foreground and male in the background. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I stopped by the quarry ponds again today where I saw the eagles a few days ago. I remembered the tripod for the scope, but the road block still kept me too far back to identify more than the Canada Geese  and a few ducks that I think were Black Ducks. Oh, and one grebe, Pie-Billed? Hard to tell from that distance, even with the scope up to 45 power. I heard more small bird calls than I did the day before. Warm weather has been bringing in the migrants, though I confess that I am better at water fowl and birds of prey. I don’t know my songbird calls like I should. Lots of chickadees in the area, and even more Red-winged Blackbirds than before. Oh! And my first American Kestrel of the season. Lovely little lady sitting on a wire, before she took off, beating that snappy wing beat across the fields. Beat, beat beat, soar. Beat, beat, beat, beat, soar. . .

But sadly no Great Blue Heron today, and no Bald Eagles. Rain drops though, and a coming storm that hastened me back to the car. But I guess that’s just the way it is.

The Way It Is

There’s a thread you follow. It goes among
things that change. But it doesn’t change.
People wonder about what you are pursuing.
You have to explain about the thread.
But it is hard for others to see.
While you hold it you can’t get lost.
Tragedies happen; people get hurt
or die; and you suffer and get old.
Nothing you do can stop time’s unfolding.
You don’t ever let go of the thread.

By William Stafford, from The Way It Is, 1998

22 Comments Add yours

  1. keatsbabe says:

    A poem that strikes a chord – but I don’t think I agree with William Stafford. I feel I have ‘lost the thread’ on a regular basis…


    1. I’m not sure I have it figured out. It might depend on whether he is making a declarative statement, or giving advice, “you don’t ever. . . ” Or maybe it’s that the thread is something other than what we think? It’s ambiguous rather than obscure or inaccurate for me. And not quite getting it, I am drawn to it. Strikes a chord, as you said.


  2. slpmartin says:

    I would think that each of us have some part of us that is critical to our nature that is always present…even as we change that part of us remains unchanged…just a random thought. :-0


    1. I like the thought. Perhaps that’s why the poem is a bit of an enigma. It may mirror what we don’t even know about ourselves?


  3. Oh, great share today, David. I have to say, your mentioning the blue heron reminds me of an argument my mother and aunt got into over whether it was a Great Blue Heron or a Great Green Heron. They were so passionate about it. Now it makes me smile.


    1. Ah, well if it was great, it was blue (blue-grey to be more exact). The Green Heron is much smaller than the Great Blue Heron, but it is very lovely to see. Here are some amazing up close shots a dedicated birder got:


  4. I wish I did know where this Stafford poem is engraved, David. It looks like it’s in far better condition than his Methow Valley placards! Thanks for this reading of yet another of his pieces. I think your vocal interpretation conveys the poem’s interesting ambiguities very nicely.


    1. Ah, well, hopefully someone will recognize the plaque. I tried a reverse image search, but came up with zero. Thank you for the compliment! I remember when I first picked up his book Oregon Message I was living in Indiana and missing home. Somehow he caught a bit of small town Pennsylvania in there for me. But it took me a bit to get used to his phrasing and his lines. After hearing recordings of him, I’ve tried to impart some of his pace and his calmness to the readings. Your assurance means a lot, as you know he’s kind of a hero to me. 🙂


    2. He is absolutely revered here in the Pacific Northwest–he continues to be an inspiration to many in this region. Thanks to you, I’ve become aware that he’s far more than a “regional” poet. Somehow, his ties to this place allow readers elsewhere to connect deeply to their own beloved places.


    3. I think that’s well said, Jenifer. It was some of his small town poems, being up in a tree at the end of the day, a world to yourself, the “tinkling” of dishwashing noises in the house below. . . old railroad tracks, laundry on the line. . . so many things, stated with care.


    4. YES: “stated with care”–that’s the strength of all his writing. Nicely put.


    5. I sort of borrowed/ adapted the phrase from his poem “Keeping a Journal.” I think it’s on page one of An Oregon Message.” He said that each thought was “placed with care by the others,” and so captured the what it is about his writing.


    6. Ah, lovely.

      Hey, what time is where you live? Shouldn’t you be sleeping?!


    7. It’s only 1:20. Bed before two am is pretty rare for me.


    8. Okay, then. Just wanted to make sure you weren’t out blogging past curfew. : -)


  5. JM Simpson says:

    Honored to have the link to my poem posted here. Have loved and read Stafford’s work for years. Thank you for the recording.


    1. You are welcome! So sweet of you to visit and reply back. I am glad you liked what you found.


  6. angryricky says:

    I drop the thread sometimes. But there are more than one, so there’s always one close by. I might not know where I’m going, but it’s somewhere I have never traveled, gladly beyond.


    1. Thank you, Mr. Cummings. 😉


Talk to me:

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

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

Facebook photo

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

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.