Skip to Content

William E. Stafford Collection

 Collection — Box: VMF 15, Folder: 12
Identifier: MS-VMF-vmf158

1964 December 26. Typed letter signed from Stafford to William Matheson, enclosing poems (autograph and typescript drafts) and explaining the circumstances of their composition, 1 page

Enclosed poems: 1963 December 12. Maybe Alone on My Bike, autograph and typescript drafts, 1 page

1963 December 27. My Aunt, autograph and typescript drafts, 4 pages

1964 March 9. A Note for Historians of the Assissination of President Kennedy, autograph and typescript drafts, 7 pages

1964 July 14. Some Autumn Characters, autograph and typescript drafts, 2 pages


  • 1963-1964


Conditions Governing Access


Conditions Governing Use

Users of the collection must read and agree to abide by the rules and procedures set forth in the Materials Use Policies.

Providing access to materials does not constitute permission to publish or otherwise authorize use. All publication not covered by fair use or other exceptions is restricted to those who have permission of the copyright holder, which may or may not be Washington University.

If you wish to publish or license Special Collections materials, please contact Special Collections to inquire about copyright status at (314) 935-5495 or (Publish means quotation in whole or in part in seminar or term papers, theses or dissertations, journal articles, monographs, books, digital forms, photographs, images, dramatic presentations, transcriptions, or any other form prepared for a limited or general public.)


5.00 items

1 folders

Biographical Information

William Edgar Stafford (January 17, 1914 – August 28, 1993) was an American poet and pacifist. Stafford was born in Hutchinson, Kansas. During the Depression, his family moved from town to town in an effort to find work for his father. Stafford helped contribute to family income by delivering newspapers, working in sugar beet fields, raising vegetables, and working as an electrician's apprentice. During this time he had a near death experience in a local swimming hole.

He graduated from high school in the town of Liberal in 1933. After attending junior college, he received a B.A. from the University of Kansas in 1937. He was drafted into the United States armed forces in 1941, while pursuing his master's degree at the University of Kansas, but declared himself a conscientious objector. As a registered pacifist, he performed alternative service from 1942 to 1946 in the Civilian Public Service camps operated by the Brethren Service Commission of the Church of the Brethren, which consisted of forestry and soil conservation work in Arkansas, California, and Illinois.. He received his M.A. from the University of Kansas in 1947. His master's thesis, the prose memoir Down In My Heart, was published in 1948 and described his experience in the forest service camps. That same year he moved to Oregon to teach at Lewis and Clark College. In 1954, he received a Ph.D. from the University of Iowa. Stafford taught for one academic year (1955–1956) in the English department at Manchester College in Indiana, a college affiliated with the Church of the Brethren where he had received training during his time in Civilian Public Service. The following year (1956–57), he taught at San Jose State in California, and the next year returned to the faculty of Lewis and Clark.

One striking feature of his career is its late start. Stafford was forty-eight years old when his first major collection of poetry was published, Traveling Through the Dark, which won the 1963 National Book Award for Poetry. Stafford had a quiet daily ritual of writing and his writing focuses on the ordinary. His poems are typically short, focusing on the earthy, accessible details appropriate to a specific locality. Despite his late start, he was a frequent contributor to magazines and anthologies and eventually published fifty-seven volumes of poetry. He kept a daily journal for 50 years, and composed nearly 22,000 poems, of which roughly 3,000 were published.

In 1970, he was named Consultant in Poetry to the Library of Congress, a position that is now known as Poet Laureate. In 1975, he was named Poet Laureate of Oregon. In 1980, he retired from Lewis and Clark College but continued to travel extensively and give public readings of his poetry. In 1992, he won the Western States Book Award for lifetime achievement in poetry.

Source of Acquisition

Accession number 785. Gift of William Stafford, 1964

Processing Information

Processed August 1969

William E. Stafford Collection
Description rules
Language of description

Revision Statements

  • 2021 March 18: Resource record updated in ArchiveSpace by Sarah Schnuriger.

Collecting Area Details

Part of the Manuscripts Collecting Area

Joel Minor
Olin Library, 1 Brookings Drive
MSC 1061-141-B
St. Louis MO 63130 US
(314) 935-5495