When William Stafford died in 1993, he was not the most famous or most critically acclaimed poet around, but he was certainly among the most beloved. To the many who knew him personally or through his work, he was not only an innovative poet, but one who managed to bring his life and his writing together into a seamless, striking witness to nonviolence and poetic freedom.
Stafford’s poems range widely, taking readers on undogmatic, even playful, yet deeply engaged adventures in language. In person Stafford cut a modest, wry and appealing figure, unfailingly cordial but with a firm set of core commitments. He displayed a kind of fearlessness not usually associated with American men, rooted not in the determination to compete for alpha status or to prevail at whatever cost but in his twin commitments to active nonviolence and to adventurous exploration of and in language—the commitments that defined his life.