Celebrating the life of William Stafford, Poet

A dozen of us gathered before a standing-room-only crowd in the reading room at Village Books in Old Fairhaven to celebrate the life and poetry of William Stafford (1914-1993) on the evening of January 18. Some knew him as their teacher, others as a workshop leader, lecturer, or U.S. poet laureate. Most of us knew him through his poetry or his iconic attributes. Poet Jim Bertolino emceed.

 We read from his poetry and from our own that were either inspired by Stafford or the natural world that was his inspiration. I read “A Valley Like This,” a poem that is etched on signage at the Washington Pass Overlook in the North Cascades Mountains, Washington State. From mine, I read “Chak-Chak, the Skagit Bald Eagle” from Reimagine: Poems, 1993-2009 and unpublished “From Rockport Bridge.” Both are written about the locale just down the river from Washington Pass. See www.richardleeharris.net.

 

From Rockport Bridge

 

I stand on Rockport Bridge,

This sunlit winter day.

My eyes follow the Skagit

Past Washington Eddy

To Eldorado’s glistening ridge.

 

 For a fleeting moment, I see

Snowy ridges, glacial slopes,

Alpine lakes, and hanging valleys,

Traces of ice from eons ago.

 

Framed by cottonwoods and purple hills,

The road edging Mount Sauk

Scribes the river,

Gently washing pebbles

Beneath a winter sky.

 

Travelers pass me

In eagle search,

Skimming the view—

A ferry barge,

A cedar canoe,

Our log cabin—

Artifacts of my youth.

 

These incidental visitors

Will never hear eagles call,

See black bear fish,

Trout rise to the fly,

Witness stars outshining the night—

All that I see from Rockport Bridge.

                   Rockport, Washington, (1994)

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