The Biggest Thing There Is



There’s a sense of great space in your poems. Would you trace that to growing up in Kansas?


I sometimes have thought about that, yes. In our world at least half of the world was sky; that is the way I’ve sometimes phrased it to myself. I mean, there’s the land, but it isn’t as big as the sky. Someone told me a wonderful story about a woman who came out from Nebraska and wanted to see the Pacific Ocean. The motel person said, Yes, you can see it if you walk down to the end of the road. This visitor stood there a few moments on the beach, and then walked back, and the motel person said, What do you think of it? And she said, Well, it’s all right, but I can’t help but think it isn’t as big as I thought it would be. This was the Pacific Ocean! Well, she was from Nebraska, I know about that. That’s the biggest thing there is—the sky! It’s there, and it’s an abiding puzzle, presence, and invitation.

—William Stafford, from “The Art of Poetry No. 67,” The Paris Review (Winter 1993, No. 129)



  1. I’m a Sky-Lover. Do you have any word for that David? 🙂
    It’s wonderful and I smiled at the lady’s answer, “Well, it’s all right, but I can’t help but think it isn’t as big as I thought it would be.”


  2. “The sky is everywhere, it begins at your feet.”
    ― Jandy Nelson, The Sky Is Everywhere

    Liked by 1 person

  3. “ abiding puzzle, presence and invitation.” Yes.


  4. Such a humble, gentle and brilliant man William Stafford was. He might be my favorite poet David. Thanks for the quote. It’s a great way to put a smile on my face on a Monday morning 🙂


  5. When I was in New Mexico I wouldn’t stop looking up. The sky never ended…it was huge and a color I had never seen before. I’m from Chicago and when you look up you see trees and buildings and bits of the sky. In New Mexico, that’s pretty much all there was…sky. It was beautiful but unchanging…no clouds, nothing. We did see a wisp of a cloud for a few minutes but it was relentless. I was happy to get home to my fluffy clouds and cluttered view, bits of pine trees and sky scrappers gave me my perspective back and I was so grateful for my view. The kids in New Mexico never get to make cloud pictures. The drought is killing everything, including the economy. Beautiful place, but thirsty and being crushed by that endless, turquoise blue sky.


  6. The sky gives us such gifts as the sunrise, sunsets, stars, the moon shining on the ocean, clouds, rain, lightening. I could go on and on; I love looking up at the sky. The sky mixed with the ocean—perfection!


  7. I “almost” grew up in Kansas…except that my mom took off and brought me to California when I was 7. I might have been a completely different person if the Kansas sky had provided my sense of wonder…rather than the Pacific Ocean. I really do like William Stafford, thanks David. 🙂


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