Crossing Unmarked Snow

Further Views on the Writer's Vocation
William Stafford
Edited by Paul Merchant and Vincent Wixon
Essays, interviews, and poetry by revered poet and teacher William Stafford


"It is this impulse to change the quality of experience that I recognize as central to creation. . . . Out of all that could be done, you choose one thing. What that one thing is, nothing else can tell you—you come at it over unmarked snow."
William Stafford

A plain-spoken but eminently effective poet, the late William Stafford (1914-1993) has managed to shape part of the mainstream of American poetry by distancing himself from its trends and politics. Though his work has always inspired controversy, he was widely admired by students and poetry lovers as well as his own peers. His fascination with the process of writing joined with his love of the land and his faith in the teaching power of nature to produce a unique poetic voice in the last third of the twentieth century.

Crossing Unmarked Snow continues—in the tradition of Stafford's well-loved collections Writing the Australian Crawl and You Must Revise Your Life—collecting prose and poetry on the writer's profession. The book includes reviews and reflections on poets from Theodore Roethke to Carolyn Forche, from May Sarton to Philip Levine; conversations on the making of poems; and a selection of Stafford's own poetry. The book also includes a section on the art of teaching, featuring interviews, writing exercises, and essays on the writer's vocation.

William Stafford authored more than thirty-five books of poetry and prose during his lifetime, including the highly acclaimed Writing the Australian Crawl: Views on the Writer's Vocation and You Must Revise Your Life.

Praise / Awards

  • "It's fun watching Stafford overturn current shibboleths such as 'finding one's own voice.' He advises students not to settle into one voice, but to 'Keep on being various.' . . . Like Stafford himself, this little collection, in refuting the conventional wisdom about writing, entertains as it instructs."
    --Thomas R. Smith, Pioneer Press
  • "Like Stafford himself, this little collection, in refuting the conventional wisdom about writing, entertains as it instructs."
    --Star Tribune, Minneapolis

Look Inside


I. Making Poems     1
Statements and Poems     3
The Experience of Now: A Dialogue with Students     12
Poems on Keeping a Journal     23
Opening the Moment: A Conversation with Steven Ratiner     25
Elemental Moves: An Interview with Michael Markee and Vincent Wixon     32

II. Encounters with Poetry     47
An Afternoon in the Stacks     49
Roethke's Way     50
Brother Antoninus---the World as a Metaphor     52
If I Could be Like Wallace Stevens     59
Emily     60
In Memoriam: Richard Hugo, 1923-1982     61
Book Review: Keats's Poems     64
A Poet with Something To Tell You: On Philip Levine's Poetry     65
Suddenly Everything Became Clear to Him: Remembering Raymond Carver     70
Jeffers     75
The Current of Humanity: Carolyn Forche's Against Forgetting: Twentieth-Century Poetry of Witness     76
The Trouble with Reading     81
The Farm on the Great Plains     82
Fifteen     84
Traveling through the Dark 86
Stereopticon     90
Ask Me     92
Reaching into the Well     96
The Writing of "Bess"     98
Sometimes, Reading     103

III. The Art of Teaching     105
Eighth-Grade Art     107
Teaching Notes: Produce, Reflect, Perceive     108
Sharing Language: A Conversation with David L. Elliott     110
For Our Esteemed Companions on the Way: A Greeting at a Writer's Conference     117
No Praise, No Blame: An Interview with George E. Murphy Jr.     119
Interviewing Tracker Dog: A Fantasy before the Daily Craft Lecture at Any Writers' Conference     129
Our Workshop Last Summer    130
Workshop Gleanings     133
Grooming a Poem after It Happens     140
Five Writing Exercises     142
Soul Food     148
Being Tough, Being Gentle     151
What Is a Current Event?     155
How These Words Happened     157

Product Details

  • 5.375 x 8.
  • 168pp.
Available for sale worldwide

  • Paper
  • 1998
  • Available
  • 978-0-472-06664-3

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  • $20.95 U.S.