(Masterpieces of American Literature)

“It’s All Right” is one of Stafford’s most charming poems. It is an example of his characteristic impulse to include the reader in the collaborative process of the poem’s meaning. The poem’s language and tone are simple and reassuring; it is as if the reader is being cheered up by an old friend or given some helpful counsel by a wise grandfather.

The poem speaks to the reader directly, as many Stafford poems do, addressing the reader as “you” throughout. Stafford is concerned not only with the events of his own life but with the events of others’ lives as well. The experiences he describes are ones that anyone can recognize. “Someone you trusted has treated you bad./ Someone has used you to vent their ill temper.” Surely, all readers encountered such treatment. Yet Stafford knows that these difficulties are an inevitable consequence of social life: “Did you expect anything different?”

Stafford goes on to list, with sympathetic understanding, the failures and frustrations that, expected or not, can wear people down. “Your work—better than some others’—has languished,/ neglected. Or a job you tried was too hard,/ and you failed. Maybe weather or bad luck/ spoiled what you did.” Stafford takes care to imagine types of disappointments in work that could apply to a wide variety of readers, from writers, who often feel unfairly overlooked, to farmers, whose best efforts may be ruined by the caprice of the...

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(Masterpieces of American Literature)

Andrews, Tom, ed. On William Stafford: The Worth of Local Things. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 1993.

Holden, Jonathan. The Mark to Turn. Lawrence: University Press of Kansas, 1976.

Kitchen, Judith. Writing the World: Understanding William Stafford. Corvallis: Oregon State University Press, 1999.

Pinsker, Sanford. “William Stafford: ’The Real Things We Live By.’” In Three Pacific Northwest Poets. Boston: Twayne, 1987.

Stafford, Kim. Early Morning: Remembering My Father, William Stafford. St. Paul, Minn.: Graywolf Press, 2002.

Stitt, Peter. “William Stafford’s Wilderness Quest.” In The World: Hieroglyphic Beauty: Five American Poets. Athens: University of Georgia Press, 1985.