Ten writers for children. All with something to say.

10/28/08

Nuzzle your way


The first author I met was my college roommate’s dad. I attended Lewis & Clark College where the Poet Laureate of Oregon and Poet to the Library of Congress, William Stafford taught for many years. Barbara Stafford and I, both art students, were often together. Soon I came to know her whole family. Barb’s mom, Dorothy held little tea parties at their home in Lake Oswego. Hanging out in the kitchen I sometimes read poems Bill had scribbled on notepaper and hung on the refrigerator.

Starting with little things

Love the earth like a mole,
Fur-near. Near sighted,
hold the precious clods
their fine print headlines.
Pat them with soft hands—

but spades: pink and loving, they
break rock, nudge giants aside—
affable plow.
Fields are to touch:
each day nuzzle your way.

Tomorrow the world.

William Stafford, An Oregon Message

(printed with the permission of the Stafford family)

This is quintessential Stafford philosophy—quiet, yet sure, and steadily moving along. Stafford claimed he never got writer’s block because his standards were so low. “You shouldn’t have standards that inhibit you from writing. After all, writing is a creative thing and you ought to get into action.” He said, “The correct attitude to take about anything you write is ‘Welcome! Welcome!’” (
Writing the Australian Crawl: Views on the Writer’s Vocation) This is not to say Stafford didn’t revise, he just didn’t let vanity keep him from starting.

Barb’s brother Kim, a poet as well as an essayist, printed his own broadsides on the Vandercook Press he had out in the back shed. This was well before the days of personal computers so I went wild over the possibilities of publishing small editions. I took a course in letterpress printing and soon I was collaborating with poets and creating chapbooks. I was honored to work with Bill on his collection,
How to Hold Your Hands When It Rains (Confluence Press, 1990).

5 comments:

David said...

What a wonderful opportunity, Christy! And what good advice he gave, about not letting your vanity, or expectations, stop you from getting started.

Christy said...

I used to teach art to middle school kids. Sometimes a student would stare at a blank piece of paper for a long stretch of time, not knowing what to draw. I would say, "Just make a mark." Whether it's writing or drawing you need to start somewhere. Once there is even the tiniest beginning it can lead to a response.

Stephanie said...

What an amazing story and cool experience:)

john said...

Christy,
William Stafford is one of my favorite poets, too. Thank you for sharing this story.
My wife Fiona works at Graywolf Press and I love Kim's book about his father, Early Morning. It is one of the best guides I know about being a writer.

betsy woods said...

Every entry I read inspires me forward. Thank you, I feel grateful for your words.

Always,
Betsy ...