Andrews, Tom, ed. On William Stafford: The Worth of Local Things. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 1993. Presents an assortment of over fifty mostly (but not wholly) complimentary essays on Stafford’s poetry and prose. Overall, they rank Stafford among the best American poets. Important historical analogies are proposed, favorably comparing his subject matter, voice, and vision to those of poets such as Whitman and Frost. There is enough hard criticism, especially regarding the occasional flatness of Stafford’s style, to allow the reader to share in the debate.
Holden, Jonathan. The Mark to Turn. Lawrence: University Press of Kansas, 1976. This volume, the first book-length study of Stafford’s work, is a useful overview of his major themes and technique. Holden focuses his close readings on poems from Stafford’s first published collection and the four collections with his major publisher that followed. The ninety-one-page study includes a biography.
Kitchen, Judith. Writing the World: Understanding William Stafford. Corvallis: Oregon State University Press, 1999. This comprehensive volume is accessible for the student as well as the good nonacademic reader. In addition to a short biography and overview of Stafford’s work, it presents detailed analysis of seven of Stafford’s major collections and also considers his chapbooks and distinguished small-press editions. This 175-page work concludes with a detailed bibliography of primary and secondary sources.
Nordstrom, Lars. “A William Stafford Bibliography.” Studia Neophilologica 59 (1987): 59-63. Although it is difficult to assemble an exhaustive bibliography because Stafford publishes frequently with small presses, this relatively complete one includes both primary and secondary sources. In addition to prose and poetry collections, it lists critical studies, symposia, interviews, doctoral dissertations, film, and reference materials.
Pinsker, Sanford. “William Stafford: ‘The Real Things We Live By.’” In Three Pacific Northwest Poets. Boston: Twayne, 1987. This chapter begins with a biographical sketch and then unfolds a book-by-book analysis of six of Stafford’s collections, offering close readings of representative poems to support more general conclusions. It includes a selected bibliography.
Stitt, Peter. “William Stafford’s Wilderness Quest.” In The World: Hieroglyphic Beauty: Five American Poets. Athens: University of Georgia Press, 1985. This excellent chapter develops Stafford as a “wisdom poet” and explores his process-rather-than-substance view of writing. It includes an interview with Stafford originally conducted at his home in 1976 and updated in 1981 at the Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference.