A Gift

Personal photo from “Friends of William Stafford” newsletter

National Poetry Month is coming, and the thought gives me chills! I love poetry. I am no expert, no learned academic. My love is visceral and plebeian; it is the love of an amateur. ( from etymonline: “one who loves, lover” [16c., restored from Old French ameour], from Latin amatorem [nominative amator] “lover, friend,” )

On a brisk spring Sunday afternoon, I enter the downstairs conference room in our public library. A small group, maybe 15 of us, meet: The Friends of William Stafford. Do you know him? It is my first time here, but the welcome is warm. We watch a film about his life, his commitment to pacifism which found him working in civilian service camps during World War II, his devotion to the soul of this world.

The first time I shared him with my son, like a moth to a flame Stafford’s words drew him…Langston Hughes and William Stafford—those two from among the many. Stafford’s collection, The Way It Is, offered itself to us both, a gift.

At my son’s bar mitzvah in December of 2001, held in the dark shadow of 9/11 in a small temple in New Jersey, I spoke when the rabbi gave parents the opportunity. I closed with the poem, “The Way It Is.” Seeing the photo above in my most recent “Friends of William Stafford” newsletter, floods me with that moment, and such love.

I did not know the quote embroidered on the bottom of the antique baby dress, “I have woven a parachute out of everything broken,” but it speaks volumes about this man whose heart and spirit lives on in his son Kim who lives and works in Oregon still.

Kim’s most recent book is Singer from Afar, and as I fan the pages of my copy, I catch glimpses of the pencil musings the child of the father evokes. In the “Afterword” Kim says, “…I am drawn to important poems…often labeled,’occasional verse’…essential exchange of thoughtful language as an inducement to deeper relationships now, to stronger communities, and a better nation in an interdependent world…And I would say all poems arise from an occasion—sometime: a moment of creative crisis, wordless struggle, defeat, or epiphany.

…Poetry is a speaking silence, a musical nudge, a glance between intimate friends.”

Today is my National Poetry Month occasion—heartfelt acknowledgement.

2 thoughts on “A Gift”

  1. One of my favorite poets! Kim’s writing book, Muses Among Us, is also one of my favorites–I’ve been very, very slowly reading it for the last year as my writing inspiration book. Are you going to tackle a daily poem in April for National Poetry Month?

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