The Biggest Thing There Is

moon,photography,sky,blue,winter,Nebraska

INTERVIEWER:

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

STAFFORD:

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)


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