vocalisms #39: William Stafford


vocalisms is a regular feature that presents selected tracks from Voca, the Poetry Center's online audiovisual archive of more than 800 recorded readings, spanning from 1963 to today.

poet William Stafford


William Stafford visited the Poetry Center four times between 1968 and 1982; during his 1976 visit, he shared two brief poems written about the Poet’s Cottage the night prior to the reading. The poems reference a wrought-iron set of words hung on the cottage, “The Fieries and the Snuffies,” a phrase from a cowboy song that Poetry Center founder Ruth Stephan applied to poets’ tendency to write in enthusiastic bursts before snuffing out much through revision. The first of Stafford’s in-the-moment poems addresses a flowering plant pressed against the cottage window, while the second turns its attention to a saguaro “boot,” the hard shell a saguaro develops around a cavity dug into it by a bird. Prior to the first poem, Stafford recounts highlights from a class meeting with students, including the idea that “The contemporary is always historical […] the arts are right now.”