Facts about William Stafford
William Stafford Biography
Poet William Stafford didn’t begin publishing poems until he was nearly 50 years old, and his first major collection, Traveling Through the Dark, won the 1963 National Book Award. Stafford grew up in Kansas and graduated in 1937 from the University of Kansas. During World War II he was a conscientious objector (he worked in forests in Arkansas and California), and after the war he returned to the University of Kansas, earning a graduate degree in 1947. He spent most of his teaching career at Lewis and Clark College in Portland, Oregon (he retired in 1990). He also served as a poetry consultant to the Library of Congress in 1970, and from 1975 to 1990 he was Oregon’s Poet Laureate. From the 1960s on, he published more than 50 books and over 3,000 poems. Stafford famously wrote every day and wrote about everyday things, capturing life’s moments in short poems with simple language (his famous poem “Traveling Through the Dark” is about discovering the movements of an unborn fawn in a dead doe on the highway). He wrote about the places he knew — specifically, Kansas and Oregon — and in 1992 was given the Western States Book Award for lifetime achievement.