William Stafford and William Wordsworth

Hello friends. I feel like the thing that often trips me up the most about blog entries is the title. It’s at the top, so I’m always like, I need to start with a title! But really there’s no need. I’ve decided from now on I’m just gonna leave the title field blank until the end.

Writing has been going well. No complaints. I’m making progress on two fronts. The first is my literary novel for adults (now tentatively titled The Default World). And the second is my Cynical Writer’s Guide to The Publishing Industry, which will be coming out on Thursday, May 6th!

It would be sooner, but the paperback for We Are Totally Normal is coming out on March 30th, woot woot, and I didn’t want to conflict. So…yes, buy the paperback of my book, I guess? If you read this blog regularly and do not own a copy of my book then FOR SHAME (not really, I read plenty of writers whose books I don’t own). But still, buy it. Here’s a link to buy it from Bookshop.org (and hence benefit your local bookstore).

Stuff is going well. No complaints. I’ve been reading a lot of William Stafford, whose poetry is so readable that it feels vaguely wrong, declasse, like it’s not smart enough for you to enjoy it. The one of his that I liked the best, so far, was "At The Un-National Monument Along The Canadian Border".

This is the field where the battle did not happen, where the unknown soldier did not die. This is the field where grass joined hands, where no monument stands, and the only heroic thing is the sky.

Birds fly here without any sound, unfolding their wings across the open. No people killed—or were killed—on this ground hallowed by neglect and an air so tame that people celebrate it by forgetting its name.

I’m starting to realize this is the kind of poetry I like best. Written in loose iambic, with simple diction and syntax (so you don’t even notice it’s iambic) and, if it can be done without drawing attention to itself, some rhyming. Kay Ryan would be the perfect poet for me, except…her poems never seem to actually be about anything besides the cleverness of their own rhymes. What I love about Stafford is that he has poetic conceits that one can easily understand, which are just complex enough that you might need a poem to describe them.

Most lyric poetry isn’t really like this nowadays. It’s free-associative, with a broader range of images, and it doesn’t make any sense on its face. Even a lot of Stafford’s poetry isn’t like this! I don’t know, call me crazy, but I don’t think it hurts a poem to, like, have a subject. It’s nice to read a poem and not immediately be thinking, "How stupid am I?"

However I’m still relatively early in my poetry reading, so maybe I’ll change my mind. I’m also reading Wordsworth (also excellent, also with a much less formal diction), and I’m already starting to get tired of the stricter adherence to meter. We’ll see!

P.S. What was up with Wordsworth and his sister? Srsly, I’ve seen poets write about their mothers before, but never so much about their sisters! And with some very complex relationships too. Like in one poem, "The Sparrow’s Nest", he seems to be saying that he channels his sister’s relationship to nature, and that this is the source of much of his own sensibility.

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