William Stafford—The Way It Is

This is my favorite William Stafford poem, and, much to my surprise, I came across a quote from the Vedic Literature with a similar theme, only it extends it to its ultimate spiritual conclusion. So I call this grouping: uncommon thread … cosmic thread.


There’s a thread you follow. It goes among
things that change. But it doesn’t change.
People wonder about what you are pursuing.
You have to explain about the thread.
But it is hard for others to see.
While you hold it you can’t get lost.
Tragedies happen; people get hurt
or die; and you suffer and get old.
Nothing you do can stop time’s unfolding.
You don’t ever let go of the thread.

—William Stafford


He who knows the fine-drawn thread of which the creatures that we see are spun, who knows the thread of that same thread—he also knows Brahman, the Ultimate.

—Atharva Veda Samhita 10.8.37


Listen to The Way It Is performed by Daniel Sperry from his CD: William Stafford: Cutting Loose ~ A Tribute To William Stafford.

See a video of cellist and composer Daniel Sperry perform William Stafford’s poem, “The Way It Is.”

And see William Stafford’s last poem: “Are you Mr. William Stafford?” also performed by Daniel Sperry.

This post sheds additional light on the notion of following a thread: William Stafford’s poetry lightened his life having woven a parachute out of everything broken.

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12 Responses to “William Stafford—The Way It Is”

  1. Pablo Saborio Says:

    Great, thank you for sharing these…


  2. Joe Toth Says:

    Beautiful!! There is something very similar in the conclusion of Mouse Hunt http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0119715/ a comedy full of hilarious gags


  3. Time for some humor and love — WELCOME BACK | The Uncarved Blog Says:

    […] poem by William Stafford—The Way It Is describes the kind of perspective on life Larry Darrell came to […]


  4. William Stafford’s last poem now seemed prophetic—an unintended literary epitaph | The Uncarved Blog Says:

    […] William Stafford—The Way It Is, also recorded by Daniel Sperry, and other Stafford poems I love posted on The Uncarved […]


  5. Cellist and composer Daniel Sperry performs William Stafford’s poem, “The Way It Is” | The Uncarved Blog Says:

    […] is my favorite poem by William Stafford—The Way It Is. I had found a verse from one of the Vedas that extends the theme in the poem to its ultimate […]


  6. Another poem about Sali’s essential nature | The Uncarved Blog Says:

    […] William Stafford—The Way It Is, including the Vedic expression I added. It extends the poem’s theme to its ultimate […]


  7. Rick Hotton and Holy Mole´make us laugh and learn “what is essential is invisible to the eye” | The Uncarved Blog Says:

    […] Speaking of a fundamental thread that’s invisible to the eye, see William Stafford—The Way It Is. […]


  8. William Stafford—Ask Me | The Uncarved Blog Says:

    […] He concluded with reading the poem, Ask Me. It’s one of my favorite Stafford poems along with The Way It Is, You and Art, When I Met My Muse, and many more posted on my […]


  9. William Stafford prescribed creative writing to find your own voice and reveal your inner light | The Uncarved Blog Says:

    […] Remembering My Father, William Stafford. The lines from his most profound and favorite poem, The Way It Is, were used as chapter headings. I’ve posted more of his poems on The Uncarved […]


  10. William Stafford’s poetry lightened his life having woven a parachute out of everything broken. | The Uncarved Blog Says:

    […] The Way It Is […]


  11. deborahbrasket Says:

    Very nice. this reminds me of Boehm’s theory of the implicate and Explicate Orders. That all things that are or every will be exist in the implicate order like a ball of thread and life as we experience is the thread as it is unravelling in the explicate order, seeing, experiencing the particularity of the whole “in time.” Of course,, it doesn’t actually unravel, it is still whole, that’s just how we experience the wholeness. Reminds me too of the Christian belief of “the fall.” the falling away from the undivided wholeness of God, only to be reunited again at the end of our journey.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Ken Chawkin Says:

      Interesting that you mention a ball of thread unraveling. Another post on William Stafford sheds additional light on the notion of following a thread. He subscribed to William Blake’s idea of following, winding up a gold string as it takes you into Jerusalem’s gate, heaven’s gate. This was the way Stafford wrote early each morning following hints that took him in the direction of poem, which, when completed, felt like heaven within him. https://theuncarvedblog.com/2021/01/25/william-staffords-poetry-lightened-his-life-having-woven-a-parachute-out-of-everything-broken/.

      But you’re also right about attuning oneself to the underlying wholeness. It also reminds me of TS Eliot’s Little Gidding in The Four Quartets, where towards the end he writes: We shall not cease from exploration / And the end of all our exploring / Will be to arrive where we started / And know the place for the first time.


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