After Arguing against the Contention That Art Must Come from Discontent

By William E. Stafford 1914–1993
Whispering to each handhold, “I'll be back,”   
I go up the cliff in the dark. One place   
I loosen a rock and listen a long time
till it hits, faint in the gulf, but the rush
of the torrent almost drowns it out, and the wind—
I almost forgot the wind: it tears at your side   
or it waits and then buffets; you sag outward. . . .

I remember they said it would be hard. I scramble   
by luck into a little pocket out of
the wind and begin to beat on the stones
with my scratched numb hands, rocking back and forth
in silent laughter there in the dark—
“Made it again!” Oh how I love this climb!
—the whispering to stones, the drag, the weight   
as your muscles crack and ease on, working   
right. They are back there, discontent,
waiting to be driven forth. I pound
on the earth, riding the earth past the stars:   
“Made it again! Made it again!”

William Stafford, “After Arguing Against the Contention That Art Must Come from Discontent” from The Way It Is: New and Selected Poems. Copyright © 1998 by William Stafford. Reprinted with the permission of Graywolf Press, St. Paul, Minnesota, www.graywolfpress.org.

Source: The Way It Is: New and Selected Poems (Graywolf Press, 1998)

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Poet William E. Stafford 1914–1993

POET’S REGION U.S., Northwestern

Subjects Life Choices

Poetic Terms Free Verse

 William E. Stafford

Biography

"If you have been wondering where the articulate, readable poems have gone in the last third of the 20th century, you might start with [William] Stafford," declares Victor Howes of the Christian Science Monitor. A pacifist and one of "the quiet of the land," as he often describes himself, Stafford is known for his unique method of composition, his soft-spoken voice, and his independence from social and literary expectations. As

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Poem Categorization

SUBJECT Life Choices

POET’S REGION U.S., Northwestern

Poetic Terms Free Verse

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Originally appeared in Poetry magazine.

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