William Stafford's Methow River Poems
In 1993 the U.S. Forest Service commissioned poet William Stafford to write seven poems to accompany interpretive signs at locations along a 49-mile stretch of the Methow River between Washington Pass and the confluence with the Columbia River in Pateros. It turned out to be Stafford's final project, completed before his death in August 1993.
ABOUT WILLIAM STAFFORD
William Edgar Stafford was born in Hutchinson, Kansas on January 17, 1914. He received a B.A. in 1937 and a master's degree in English in 1947 from the University of Kansas and a Ph.D. from the University of Iowa in 1954. During the Second World War, he was a conscientious objector and worked in the civilian public service camps. He wrote about this experience in the prose memoir Down in My Heart, which was published in 1947. He taught at Lewis and Clark College from 1948 until his retirement in 1980. During his lifetime, he published more than sixty-five volumes of poetry and prose including The Rescued Year, Stories That Could Be True: New and Collected Poems, Writing the Australian Crawl: Views on the Writer's Vocation, and An Oregon Message. He received several awards including a Shelley Memorial Award, a Western States Lifetime Achievement Award in Poetry, and the National Book Award in 1963 for Traveling Through the Dark. In 1970, he was the Consultant in Poetry to the Library of Congress (a position currently known as the Poet Laureate). He died on August 28, 1993.
courtesy of Confluence Press
METHOW RIVER POEM LOCATIONS
A Valley Life This: Washington Pass overlook. Original location. Installed by the Forest Service in 1993-1994
Silver Star: Washington Pass overlook. New location. Installed by the Forest Service in 1993-1994.
Where We Are: Tawlkes-Foster suspension bridge. Original location. Installed by the Forest Service in 1993-1994.
Ask Me: Winthrop. Behind Farmer’s Exchange building. New location. Installed by the Forest Service in 1993-1994.
Is This Feeling About the West Real?: Twisp Park. New location. Installed by the Forest Service in 1993-1994.
From the Wild People: McFarland Creek parking area. Original location. Installed by the Forest Service in 1993-1994.
Time for Serenity, Anyone?: Mouth of the Methow River. Across from fruit stand. Original location. Installed by the Forest Service in 1993-1994
A Valley Like This
Sometimes you look at an empty valley like this,
and suddenly the air is filled with snow.
That is the way the whole world happened—
there was nothing, and then…
But maybe some time you will look out and even
the mountains are gone, the world become nothing
again. What can a person do to help
bring back the world?
We have to watch it and then look at each other.
Together we hold it close and carefully
save it, like a bubble that can disappear
if we don’t watch out.
Please think about this as you go on. Breath on the world.
Hold out your hands to it. When mornings and evenings
roll along, watch how they open and close, how they
invite you to the long party that your life is.