William Stafford’s “The Rescued Year” is a meditative poem comprising eight verse paragraphs ranging in length from seven to eleven lines. The subject of this meditation is human memory and the continuous nature of human knowledge as passed from generation to generation, and because of the way the poet treats his subject the poem borders on the elegiac. The year that looms so large in the poet’s mind has been “rescued” from oblivion, or the loss of personal experience from communal memory; precisely because it has been retrieved from such loss, this year out of the poet’s past represents for him a kind of ideal: “Time should go the way it went/ that year. . . .”
At the outset the poet asks the reader to imagine a large globe, and on this globe to “press back that area in the west where no one lived,/ the place only your mind explores.” He then recalls a family trip by train across Kansas, a trip that ended “against the western boundary/ where my father had a job.” This latter reference is to the town of Liberal, one of five Kansas towns in which Stafford spent his adolescence (and probably the most important to him in imaginative terms).
The second verse paragraph outlines some of the characteristics that made this time in the poet’s life seem idyllic: America was at peace, and his family’s existence “had/ each day a treasured unimportance.” The third and fourth verse paragraphs juxtapose three male figures: a...
(The entire section is 555 words.)