Matsuo Bashō, wandering the back-country fields, mountains, and cities of 17th-century Japan and of his own life, distilled the immensities of human experience into single images of striking depth and feeling. Bashō offered the seventeen-syllable haiku as an evocative and democratic form for capturing the realizations of ordinary existence. His brief poems—sometimes sorrowful, sometimes humorous, always acutely perceptive—revolutionized and transfigured not only the poetry of his own time but current American and world poetry as well.
The former US Poet Laureate explores the shared territory of two major 20th century poets, Robert Frost and William Carlos Williams, whose distinct voices are unified by a common interest in the American idiom and the construction of the American memory.
For fifty years, William Stafford wrote every morning before others were awake, welcoming whatever his imagination offered, and using this attitude as the basis of his poems. In a workshop led by poets Naomi Shihab Nye and Kim Stafford, we will look at William Stafford poems that exemplify this process and try on some of his writing techniques.
William Stafford (1914–1993) was the author of more than 50 books; his first poetry collection, Traveling Through the Dark (1962), won the 1963 National Book Award for Poetry. A conscientious objector during World War II and avid ecologist, Stafford spent most of his teaching career at Lewis & Clark College in Oregon. With his deceptively simple style and reverence for the natural world, he is considered the Robert Frost of the American west.