I loved William Stafford from the first reading of his poetry, way back in college. To me, he had a voice filled with the Pacific Northwest; his natural life themes were refreshing as I came out of my Margaret Atwood phase. (Don't judge. Most people who find poetry compelling have a similar "poetry as cause" period; you know you did.)
Hearing Mr. Stafford read his work live was a real treat when one of my professors was able to entice him to the college I attended, in 1990 or '91... it's a long-ago blur, now. But my memory of his voice has not faded; he had a cadence to his speaking and reading that was very reassuring, solid. I recently found a clipping of a poem with his obituary from 1993 in the front of a book of poetry, and his voice came back to me in a flash.
One of the facilitators at the nonprofit conference I was at in January decided to start the morning session with the following Stafford poem. From the first line, I knew I was in the right room.
The Way It Is
There’s a thread you follow. It goes among
things that change. But it doesn’t change.
People wonder about what you are pursuing.
You have to explain about the thread.
But it is hard for others to see.
While you hold it you can’t get lost.
Tragedies happen; people get hurt
or die; and you suffer and get old.
Nothing you do can stop time’s unfolding.
You don’t ever let go of the thread.