Get Your Premium Membership

William Stafford Biography | Poet

Photo of William Stafford

William Stafford was an American poet and pacifist who was known for his unique writing style and his strong beliefs in non-violence. He was a prolific writer, with over 60 books of poetry published during his lifetime. In this article, we will explore the life and work of William Stafford, the "poet of peace."

Early Life and Education

William Stafford was born in Hutchinson, Kansas in 1914. He grew up in a religious household, with his father being a minister. Stafford's love for writing began at a young age, and he often wrote poems and stories in his free time. He attended the University of Kansas and later received his Masters and PhD in English from the University of Iowa.

Writing Style

Stafford's writing style was often described as simple and unpretentious. He believed in the power of everyday language and often used ordinary words to convey deep and complex ideas. His poems were known for their clarity and accessibility, making them relatable to a wide audience. Stafford's work often focused on nature, family, and the human experience.

Pacifism and Activism

As a pacifist, Stafford was a strong advocate for non-violent solutions to conflicts. He was a conscientious objector during World War II and spent four years in Civilian Public Service camps. Stafford's beliefs in peace and non-violence were reflected in his writing, and he often used his poetry to speak out against war and violence. He was also an active member of the American Friends Service Committee, a Quaker organization that promotes peace and social justice.

Awards and Recognition

Throughout his career, Stafford received numerous awards and honors for his poetry. In 1970, he was named Consultant in Poetry to the Library of Congress, a position now known as the Poet Laureate of the United States. He also received the National Book Award for his collection "Traveling Through the Dark" in 1963. In 1980, he was awarded the Western States Book Award for his collection "Writing the Australian Crawl."


Stafford's legacy continues to live on through his poetry and his impact on the literary world. He was a mentor to many young writers and taught at various universities throughout his career. His work has been translated into multiple languages and is still widely read and studied today. In 1992, the William Stafford Center was established in Portland, Oregon to honor his life and work.


William Stafford was a poet, pacifist, and teacher who left a lasting impact on the literary world. His simple yet powerful writing style and his strong beliefs in non-violence continue to inspire readers and writers alike. As Stafford once said, "A writer is not so much someone who has something to say as he is someone who has found a process that will bring about new things he would not have thought of if he had not started to say them." His words and ideas will continue to live on through his poetry and his legacy.

William Stafford: Poems | Best Poems | Short Poems | Quotes

Book: Shattered Sighs