Themes and Meanings

(Critical Guide to Poetry for Students)

Even this relatively early poem of Stafford’s foreshadows themes that are characteristic of his work. Noteworthy here is his typical concern with external nature and Boone’s intimate association with it. The crucial connection between human experience and the earth itself is an integral part of Stafford’s writing, as it was in his own life. Like Wordsworth before him, he seemed to believe that in many ways nature is a beneficent and moral teacher. As a Westerner and environmentalist, he was thus concerned with the modern dissociation of human beings from the natural world. Like many poets from the American West, Stafford wrote with a sense of place, which here is the landscape familiar to Boone. (Other poems may be set on a Kansas farm, in the small towns of Stafford’s boyhood, or even in an Oregon blackberry patch.)

Those critics who charge that he is a Western (and therefore regional) poet tend to minimize the significance of his work, for what is regional must necessarily be specific and particular, and as Stafford noted, “All particulars reflect something.The job in writing is the repeated encounter with particulars.” While Boone’s search for a “deepening home” may indeed have regional overtones, it embodies a universal desire. What is regional is also universal. A corollary theme is his sense of the past, of an earlier time and world not too different from now. In Stafford’s poetry the past is always real, yet often transfigured...

(The entire section is 427 words.)