Friday, December 10, 2010

Poetry Friday -- In Medias Res

by William Stafford

Pods of summer crowd around the door;
I take them in the autumn of my hands.

Last night I heard the first cold wind outside;
the wind blew soft, and yet I shiver twice:

Once for thin walls, once for the sound of time.

You can go to the William Stafford Archives and see the drafts (in Stafford's handwriting) as this poem grew out of his daily writing. You can also hear him (I think it must be him) reading the poem. Wow.

Jama has the roundup today at Alphabet Soup, and there are still a few spots open on the Jan-June roundup host calendar. Comment there if you want to host a roundup in the first half of 2011. I'll share the html code of the calendar for your blog's sidebar once the calendar is filled.

And now, a little about the choice of this poem and the title of this post.

You might remember that I'm collecting autographs of Poet Laureates. So far, I have stood before Billy Collins, Ted Kooser and Kay Ryan as they signed my books and listened to me babble a bit about my love of their poetry.

My brother has had fun these last several years collecting autographs of long-gone Poet Laureates that have some meaning or connection to me. In 2008, he knocked my socks off with the gift of a book signed by Richard Eberhart, the Poet Laureate in the year of my birth, and a book signed by Robert Frost, who was the Poet Laureate before Eberhart (and who was oh-my-goodness ROBERT FROST!!!)  Last year he sent a signed book about poets and poetry by the very FIRST Poet Laureate, Joseph Auslander.

This year, he asked me to call when I opened my present so he could tell me why it was perfect. This year's book is TRAVELING THROUGH THE DARK by William Stafford, the 20th Poet Laureate. Here's why he picked this particular book/poet for this particular year:
Stafford was born in Hutchinson, Kansas (not too far from our childhood home…). One of the most striking features of his career is that he began publishing his poetry only later in life. His first major collection of poetry “Traveling Through the Dark” was published in 1962 (not too long after you were born…) when he was ALMOST 50 YEARS OLD! It won the National Book Award the following year in 1963. Despite his late start, he was a frequent contributor to magazines and anthologies and eventually published fifty-seven volumes of poetry. He kept a daily journal for 50 years, and composed nearly 22,000 poems, of which roughly 3,000 were published. (Thanks to Wikipedia for help with this info.)
So some parts of life can actually begin at 50! You have a pretty good chance that you still have at least half of your adult life left to do what you want with (like William Stafford did…)! May you have a healthy and happy second half … and beyond!! 
I found one more way this book is the perfect one for this year. The three parts of the book are "In Medias Res," "Before the Big Storm," and "Representing Far Places."  In medias res means "in the middle part." It's also a literary technique where the story begins at the middle, instead of the beginning. My life story is at its middle, and I feel like the good part is just beginning! Hooray for the middle place in life! Hooray for the times "Before the Big Storm!" Looking forward to traveling to all the "Far Places" that come my way!


  1. I have a Stafford poem today too!

  2. Mary Lee, I LOVE Stafford's work! And what a fabulous collection you already have of autographed books. Frost? Collins? *swoon* Thanks for the backstory about Stafford at age 50. Very encouraging :)! Did you take that photo? Gorgeous.

  3. Mary Lee, I'm also a fan of Stafford and now I'm a fan of your brother, too. That story brought tears to my eyes, how he went so far out of his way to find you the perfect present. Yay for 50 and beyond!

  4. I love Stafford. Thank you so much for the archive link. He could cast away a line like this:
    "Why did a little boy have own such a frowning farm," which is as good as a whole novel.

    Everything about this post is exquisite. Thank you.

    (PS: I'm a member of the after-fifty club my own self.)

  5. I love this story you shared--The connections, the various meanings, the poetry...all of it! Your brother is truly awesome!

    Thanks for sharing a beautiful poem and story here today.

    I can't even remember how I found your blog, but I am SO glad I did--before I enter the middle part of my life! ; )

  6. What a beautiful poem. It makes me shiver. And what a fun collection project. Thanks for sharing.

  7. This is really wonderful. I love how much he packs into a little poem. Thank you for posting this & celebrating the middle of life!

  8. Does your brother want another sister?

    Great choice of poem AND photo for today! --Diane

  9. Ruth -- great minds think alike!

    Jama -- yes, I took that picture! It was the ice (with leaves frozen in) from the bird bath. I loved how it looked when I held it up to the sun, so I propped it in the redbud to take that picture.

    Jeannine, Toby, Lisa and Diane -- my brother is indeed quite a cool guy! That's one of neat things about growing up -- we can appreciate our siblings more!

    Toby -- aren't those archives something!?!? WOW! I could just lose myself there!

    Lisa -- I'm glad you found us!

    Andromeda -- I think this poem of his sounds like it could be one of yours!

  10. Wow, what an awesome brother! Robert Frost? Oh man, that is so cool. Thanks for sharing the poem and your wonderful journey .... with poetry and beyond.

  11. Sibling appreciation flows in both directions ;-) Thanks to everyone for helping Mary Lee celebrate the middle!

  12. Mary Lee,

    I'm a fan of Wiiliam Stafford's poetry. What a great poetry story--and what a wonderful brother you have.

  13. Your brother rocks. Wanna clone him?

    I have to look up Stafford. What a role model! I'm so inspired.

  14. I LOVE this poem. I love lots of Stafford's work, and how cool to learn about all the tie-ins and connections you feel. (And what an awesome brother you have.)

    Thanks for this one. Despite the autumn of my hands (swoon), your post made me feel joy!

  15. Oh, your brother has the family thoughtfulness gene...what a beautiful post. I hope to read more about your book collection and these stories. Your photograph matches this poem so exquisitely, a poem I love. Continued happiness in this month of your birth!


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