Ask Me

Ask Me
100 Essential Poems of William Stafford
William Stafford; Edited by Kim Stafford
"[Ask Me] does what Stafford's poetry itself does—it performs a small, creaturely act of reaching out. . . . Honoring a beauty that escapes national boundaries, and throwing his lot in with the outcasts, Stafford celebrates otherwise neglected yet crucial areas of our personal and public experience. If poetry itself seems at times to be 'hallowed by neglect,' a book such as Ask Me goes a long way toward proving that perception wrong."Star Tribune
"Ask Me: 100 Essential Poems is a wonderful one-volume introduction to Stafford's poetry."Oregonian

About the Book

“In our time there has been no poet who revived human hearts and spirits more convincingly than William Stafford.”—Naomi Shihab Nye
Some time when the river is ice ask me

mistakes I have made. Ask me whether

what I have done is my life. Others

have come in their slow way into

my thought, and some have tried to help

or to hurt: ask me what difference

their strongest love or hate has made.

—from “Ask Me”
In celebration of the poet’s centennial, Ask Me collects one hundred of William Stafford’s essential poems. As a conscientious objector during World War II, while assigned to Civilian Public Service camps, Stafford began his daily writing practice, a lifelong early morning ritual of witness. His poetry reveals the consequences of violence, the daily necessity of moral decisions, and the bounty of art. Selected and with a note by Kim Stafford, Ask Me presents the best from a profound and original American voice.
“Stafford . . . left behind a body of work that represents some of the finest poetry written during the second half of the twentieth century.”—Library Journal
“William Stafford’s quiet presence in the landscape of American poetry in my lifetime has been a kind of continuing reassurance.”—W. S. Merwin

Additional Reviews

"Stafford was a phenomenon. . . . In this selection of one-hundred poems published to celebrate his centenary, Stafford emerges as an allegorist, a messenger. . . . These poised poems are revealing without being explicit, as in the final line of the justly famous title poem, 'What the river says, that is what I say.'"Booklist
"Ask Me suggests that Stafford's life is larger than the sum of its actions—larger enough that it keeps speaking, years after it is over. . . . As Ask Me demonstrates, Stafford's modes are manifold. One moment gentle and receptive, the next critical and morally imperative, his poetry is as textured and unpredictable as the natural world it so often extols. . . . Stafford nearly always speaks with candor and moral authority."ZYZZYVA

“This book ought to be called One Hundred Quintessential Poems. Readers should enter into this amazing new collection as soon as they can step into its deep space of recognition and meaning, warming themselves by the hearth of Stafford’s voice.”World Literature Today

“There’s much in this distillation of five decades to generate enthusiasm—Stafford’s generous, plainspoken intelligence, and his ability to open a great complication with a work. . . . These poems cooperate beautifully, envisioning peace by variously redefining how we memorialize.”The Antioch Review 
"I know of no other twentieth century American writer as much admired and respected as William Stafford. He deserves to be remembered for many generations to come."—Ted Kooser
"I was so surprised at the depth of William Stafford's poetry, and it fell into my heart as if it had always been there."—Alice Walker
"For those unacquainted with William Stafford this is a great entryway to one of the twentieth century's giants of poetry. Stafford wrote a poem a day, and you should read one of these each day. He's a philosopher, father figure, steely yet jocular activist, a moody lover, a world citizen, a word citizen. Genius and rapture abound in these pages."—Anthony Swofford
"William Stafford's quiet presence in the landscape of American poetry in my lifetime has been a kind of continuing reassurance whose value always seemed to me beyond question."—W. S. Merwin
"In our time there has been no poet who revived human hearts and spirits more convincingly than William Stafford. There has been no one who gave more courage to a journey with words, and silence, and an awakening life."—Naomi Shihab Nye
"William Stafford's poems walk silently and gracefully before you, and then they turn and surprise you with their power, their defiant criticism of contemporary culture."—Howard Zinn
"Too often William Stafford is forced into the sappy clothing of a gentleman farmer or weekend nature lover; too often his work is spoken about as if one was speaking about the most gentle poems on earth. For me, Stafford was his own rebellion. This is NOT a nature poet but a poet who lived with nature, who loved it even though it could kill, who was calm even though it was wild, a poet unafraid of the dark in the forest probably because it looked a lot like the dark in him."—Matthew Dickman

"William Stafford is a master. He belongs in that category of artists the Japanese have named 'national treasures.'… I believe William Stafford will be read with even greater attention in the next hundred years."—Robert Bly