“The Tillamook Burn” by William Stafford

I’ve just come back from an overnight trip to Mineral School, where I had the good fortune to meet and read with mountain guide and writer/editor Charlotte Austin. Before I headed home, I stopped by the informal information center across from the Alder Lake Fire, which has been burning since a lightning strike on July 26 — a nano-second compared to the Tillamook Burn, which flared every six years in Oregon for several decades (yes, you read that right). Here’s what William Stafford had to say about that:

The Tillamook Burn

These mountains have heard God;
they burned for weeks. He spoke
in a tongue of flame from sawmill trash
and you can read His word down to the rock.

In milky rivers the steelhead
butt upstream to spawn
and find a world with depth again,
starting from stillness and water across gray stone.

Inland along the canyons
all night weather smokes
past the deer and the widow-makers–
trees too dead to fall till again He speaks.

Mowing the criss-cross trees and the listening peaks.

—William Stafford

“Tillamook Burn,” by William Stafford, copyright © Kim Stafford. Used by permission of Kim Stafford.

Read more and see pictures of the Tillamook Burn.

Poetry for All

“Poetry for All” is a series of short video writing prompts. I’ve put these together for the poetry-curious, for beginning writers, and for anyone who’d like company at the desk. I’ve posted four so far, with at least one more to come later this month. Here they are:

Prompt 1: A Memorable Meal

This prompt features Li-Young Lee’s poem “Eating Together,” from Rose (BOA Editions).

Prompt 2: A Visitation

This prompt features Peter Pereira’s poem “Twenty Years after His Passing, My Father Appears to Us in Chicago, at Bobby Chinn’s Crab & Oyster House, in the Guise of Our Waiter, Ramon” from What’s Written on the Body (Copper Canyon Press).

Prompt 3: Desire

Prompt 3 features “Desire, Like a Hungry Lion” by Dorothy Trogdon from her collection Tall Woman Looking (Blue Begonia Press).

Prompt 4: The Sensory World

William Stafford’s poem “Starting With Little Things” is the model poem for prompt 4. It’s in Ask Me: 100 Essential Poems (Graywolf Press).


Poem credits:

Li-Young Lee, “Eating Together” from Rose. Copyright © 1986 by Li-Young Lee. Used with the permission of The Permissions Company, Inc., on behalf of BOA Editions, Ltd., www.boaeditions.org.

Peter Pereira, “Twenty Years after His Passing, My Father Appears to Us in Chicago, at Bobby Chinn’s Crab & Oyster House, in the Guise of Our Waiter, Ramon” from What’s Written on the Body. Copyright © 2007 by Peter Pereira. Used with the permission of Copper Canyon Press, www.coppercanyonpress.org.

Dorothy Trogdon, “Desire, Like a Hungry Lion” from Tall Woman Looking. Copyright © 2012 by Dorothy Trogdon. Used with the permission of the author and Blue Begonia Press.

William Stafford, “Starting With Little Things” from Ask Me: 100 Essential Poems. Copyright © 1987 by William Stafford. Used with the permission of The Permissions Company, Inc. on behalf of Graywolf Press, Minneapolis, Minnesota, www.graywolfpress.org.