Cover image for Every war has two losers : William Stafford on peace and war
Every war has two losers : William Stafford on peace and war
Stafford, William, 1914-1993.
First edition.
Publication Information:
Minneapolis, Minn. : Milkweed Editions, [2003]

Physical Description:
168 pages ; 22 cm
Added Author:
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
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PS3537.T143 A6 2003 Adult Non-Fiction Non-Fiction Area

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Born the year World War I began, acclaimed poet William Stafford (1914-1993) spent World War II in a camp for conscientious objectors. Throughout a century of conflict he remained convinced that wars simply don't work. In his writings, Stafford showed it is possible--and crucial--to think independently when fanatics act, and to speak for reconciliation when nations take sides. He believed it was a failure of imagination to only see two options: to fight or to run away.

This book gathers the evidence of a lifetime's commitment to nonviolence, including an account of Stafford's near-hanging at the hands of American patriots. In excerpts from his daily journal from 1951-1991, Stafford uses questions, alternative views of history, lyric invitations, and direct assessments of our political habits to suggest another way than war. Many of these statements are published here for the first time, together with a generous selection of Stafford's pacifist poems and interviews from elusive sources.

Stafford provides an alternative approach to a nation's military habit, our current administration's aggressive instincts, and our legacy of armed ventures in Europe, the Pacific, Korea, Vietnam, the Persian Gulf, Afghanistan, and beyond.

Author Notes

William Edgar Stafford was born in Hutchinson, Kansas on January 17, 1914. He received a B.A. in 1937 and a master's degree in English in 1947 from the University of Kansas and a Ph.D. from the University of Iowa in 1954. During the Second World War, he was a conscientious objector and worked in the civilian public service camps. He wrote about this experience in the prose memoir Down in My Heart, which was published in 1947. He taught at Lewis and Clark College from 1948 until his retirement in 1980.

During his lifetime, he published more than sixty-five volumes of poetry and prose including The Rescued Year, Stories That Could Be True: New and Collected Poems, Writing the Australian Crawl: Views on the Writer's Vocation, and An Oregon Message. He received several awards including a Shelley Memorial Award, a Western States Lifetime Achievement Award in Poetry, and the National Book Award in 1963 for Traveling Through the Dark. In 1970, he was the Consultant in Poetry to the Library of Congress (a position currently known as the Poet Laureate). He died on August 28, 1993.

(Bowker Author Biography)

Reviews 1

Library Journal Review

"Is it naive to seek national and international security through poetry?" asks Kim Stafford in his introduction to a book that celebrates his father's pacifist ideology. Published ten years after William Stafford's death, it is a fitting tribute to a lifelong pacifist and socially responsible American poet. Stafford uses his father's poems, as well as interviews and daily reflections, to show how dedicated he was to turning minds away from war and how firmly he believed that weapons of steel were never the answer. The book opens with a chapter from Down in My Heart (1947), which recalls a formative time in William Stafford's development as a pacifist and writer and the four years he spent in conscientious objector camps during World War II. The book ends with excerpts from interviews that touch on more contemporary wars, Vietnam and the Gulf. Essentially an intimate and focused study, the book captures many of the poet's scribbled thoughts, but his poetry and its antiwar message remain at the heart of it. Timely and relevant, it will speak vividly to many struggling to understand the fate of the post-9/11 world. Highly recommended for all libraries.-Maria Kochis, California State Univ. Lib., Sacramento (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Table of Contents

Kim Stafford
Editor's Notep. ix
"These Mornings" A poem from 1944p. 3
What Is Left for Us: An Introductionp. 5
I. The Mob Scene at McNeil: A Chapter from Down in My Heartp. 13
II. Citizen Here on Earth: Selections from the Daily Writings, 1951-1993p. 25
III. A Ritual to Read to Each Other: Poemsp. 81
Learningp. 83
Explaining the Big Onep. 84
At the Bomb Testing Sitep. 84
At the Grave of My Brother: Bomber Pilotp. 85
A Message from the Wandererp. 86
At the Un-National Monument Along the Canadian Borderp. 87
Peace Walkp. 88
Watching the Jet Planes Divep. 89
A Ritual to Read to Each Otherp. 89
Thinking for Berkyp. 90
A Dedicationp. 91
Menp. 92