William Stafford

When I was living in Portland, I was introduced to the poetry of William Stafford. I came across his poems while working amongst the amazing faculty at Arbor School of Arts and Sciences, where I learned the best of the best about teaching, and during graduate school at Lewis and Clark College, where William Stafford’s son, Kim Stafford, directs the Northwest Writing Institute.

A teacher-mentor gave me the following poem. I kept a copy of the poem in my classroom, tacked right above my desk during the years I taught dozens of first graders. For the past 2 years, the poem has been a permanent fixture on my refrigerator, a very central location in my current classroom called home.


You Reading This, Be Ready

Starting here, what do you want to remember?

How sunlight creeps along a shining floor?

What scent of old wood hovers, what softened

sound from outside fills the air?


Will you bring a better gift for the world

than the breathing respect that you carry

wherever you go right now? Are you waiting

for time to show you some better thoughts?


When you turn around, starting here, lift this

new glimpse that you found; carry into evening

all that you want from this day.  This interval you spent

reading or hearing this, keep it for life —


What can anyone give you greater than now,

starting here, right in this room, when you turn around?


–William Stafford

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