An Oregon Message (Magill's Literary Annual 1988)
This is William Stafford’s eighth volume of poetry, and it recapitulates many familiar themes: the joys of youth and depletions of old age, the power of intuition and appeal of the natural world, the limitations of technological society, and the need for individuals to connect intuitively with one another. Once again, Stafford’s scenery and language are simple—of water, rocks, birds, the earth, wind, and all things blue and green—and his images are of flight, roads, and the emblems of reverence and awe manifest in nature and human interaction. Rhythms and rhymes are informal, and on occasion parts of speech exchange their traditional functions. This is a poetry of direct and deeply felt experience. Stafford is the quintessential Romantic poet at work, writing from divine inspiration the “miracle that has been invited to happen.” Poetry, as he writes in “Some Notes on Writing,” is “organically grown” verse, arrived at from “reckless impulse.” Stafford allows “language its own freedom and confidence.”
The result, equally true of much other Romantic verse, is an unevenness in quality, an occasionally prosaic statement and banal imagery, as well as occasional awkwardness, didacticism, and flaccidity. At his best, however, Stafford is extremely moving in his evocations of the instinctive life and heart as the agencies through...
(The entire section is 2005 words.)
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