"One ought, every day at least, to hear a little song, read a good poem, see a fine picture
and, if possible, speak a few reasonable words." ~Goethe

~ also, if possible, to dwell in "a house where all's accustomed, ceremonious." ~Yeats

Saturday, February 28, 2009

Another Short Poem By William Stafford



An excellent motto, one of my lifelong favorites: "Some haystacks don't even have any needle." But some friends I mentioned it to recently immediately objected to my choice, finding it "utterly depressing." I was confused! This is a hopeful little poem, full of optimism. But no matter how I defended it, my audience just couldn't see how. They said, "Searching and searching forever and never finding anything? How is that optimistic?"

Now this was bewildering indeed! I was first attracted to these William Stafford poems back in high school when we studied from a poetry book entitled Some Haystacks Don't Even Have Any Needle. I was so taken with this anthology that I squirreled my copy away at the end of the year, claiming to have lost it, so that I could pay the replacement fine and keep the book to myself. A few years later, William Stafford came to speak at my college and I was honored to interview him for our literary magazine and ask him to autograph my book, the title of which was taken from his sequence of short poems included as the anthology's closing selection.

So, back to the present, why was the message suddenly coming across all wrong?

Then I had a "Eureka" moment and realized that the reader needs the title of the poem in order to grasp its liberating message that you don't always have to be searching for a needle in a haystack, performing a goal - oriented task, or striving for a particular outcome. Sometimes you can just take the haystack for what it is (think Monet), maybe even jump into the haystack with joy, as into a snowdrift or a pile of leaves, and with confidence that there's nothing hidden there to hurt you, no puzzle to solve.

At last, here's the poem complete with title:


Some haystacks don't even have any needle."

(short poem by William Stafford)


  1. Comments From Friends:

    Renee: Hello...what a beautiful blog. I hope you don't mind me sending this link to my friend who is also a wonderful poet. The Buddha might say: "While you are looking for that needle in a haystack, you may be missing the true path to enlightenment."

    Milly: Kit, How fun! I love it! And I know for a fact that some haystacks don't have needles!

  2. Jack made me laugh: I love your blog. Subscribed to your feed.

    The Monet Haystacks with the poems and commentary are wonderful!

    In contradistinction to your civilized gentility are Google ads for "sexy bikini photo" and "painless tattoo removal". I thought that "Blogging Moms Unite" was more in keeping with your content.

    Very much enjoyed the months!

    Keep up the good work!

  3. Thanks Theresa: I love your blog. I love your "analysis" of the Wm Stafford's poem about the haystack. It takes a great literary mind to make those connections and once made, seem more obvious to us un-literay types. I
    do like those eureka or aha moments. Reading poetry was always so hard for me, but I think I might enjoy it more now that I have some life
    experience to draw from and to give poems more context.