William Stafford Birthday Celebration - Student Poetry Contest

Jan 11, 2013

Celebrate the birthday of American poet William Stafford by composing a poem based on the first line of one of his poems. As you compose your poem, you may wish to keep in mind the spirit of Mr. Stafford's enduring belief in the ultimate goodness of humanity and nature.


Use one of the following first lines as the first line to begin your own original poem:

  1. "Feeling is believing" (from "Sayings of the Blind"; 31)
  2. "If you were exchanged in the cradle and" (from "A Story That Could Be True"; 49)
  3. "The loudest sound in our car” (from "Vacation Trip”; 126)
  4. "Even in the cave of night when you" (from "Waking at 3 A.M"; 134)
  5. "When I drive, every bridge is" (from "Together Again"; 158)
  6. "We were driving the river road." (from "Looking across the River"; 188)
  7. "Through many door it’s been—through " (from "A Journey"; 204)

Be sure to credit Mr. Stafford's poem—with an asterisk at the quoted line and the title at the end of your poem.

Poem first lines are taken from William Stafford's The Way It Is: New & Selected Poems (Graywolf Press, 1998).


  1. Your poem should be original and composed for this event.
  2. Your poem should be 10 to 30 lines in length.
  3. Your poem may be on any topic, in any form.
  4. Submit TWO PAPER COPIES of your poem to Bill Reyer, one with your name and student number in the upper left, one without identification. Submissions made be made to Dr. Reyer’s Office (PFL 101) or to his mail tray: Pfleiderer Hall, second floor.

Submission Deadline: five o'clock, January 15, 2011 (no e-attachments).

Prizes and Judging

Cash prizes will be awarded as follows: First Prize: $50; Second Prize: $30; Third Prize: $20.

Prize winners must agree to read their winning poems at the Stafford Celebration.

The competition will be judged by a panel of Heidelberg University faculty.