Having just spent a couple of weeks of reading or re-reading Stafford's work each day, I find myself in complete agreement with Nye's praise. Stafford's poetry brings both beauty and insight to the ordinary experiences that occur in daily life, and it always reminds us of something ineffably sublime that lies beyond the words of even a poet.
While I have many favorites, the Stafford poem that I keep returning to is the haunting but optimistic title poem, "The Way It Is." Written just twenty-six days before Stafford died in 1993, it speaks — hopefully, I believe — of the need to remain grounded in something meaningful that will not betray us as we pass through our transitory lives, encountering loss, self-doubt, and suffering along the way. Every sentence in this poem rings true to me.
The Way It Is
by William Stafford
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.