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Down in My Heart

by William Stafford

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521399,040 (4.22)1
From 1942 to 1945, William Stafford was interned in camps for conscientious objectors in Arkansas and California for his refusal to be inducted into the U.S. Army. Down in My Heart is an account of the relationships among the men in the camps and their day-to-day activities - fighting forest fires, building trails and roads, restoring eroded lands - and their earnest pursuit of a social morality rooted in religious and secular pacifist ideals. In his new introduction to the book, Kim Stafford calls them a "generation of seekers" working full time "to envision a way to avoid the next war". First published in 1947, this "peace relic", as William Stafford later called his first book, offers a rich glimpse into a little-known aspect of the war and a fascinating look at the formative years of a major American poet.… (more)
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One of the things I have always admired about Bill Stafford is the gentle way he doesn't mince words. I found this appropriate in his reminiscences of a few episodes from his experience as CO during WWII. This book left a profound impression upon me (in conjunction with previous readings of Stafford's poetry). I am reading it during that dark night of the soul that is January 2021. How can you oppose violence and hatred effectively while yourself avoiding the psychology and emotion that is fueling them? How big can community truly be? Can even a small community that shares ultimate goals and outlooks still include those with elemental differences on the roots of those goals or the tactics best used to further them? Stafford puts human faces into these equations while delineating an environment that is in turn idyllic and horrific. For those who have read Stafford's poetry it will be no surprise that the writing is beautiful and simple. The descriptions of the mountains of Northern CA and fire fighting there are wonderful. They are of a piece with the philosophical and political quest that brought the author there. ( )
  pitjrw | Jan 23, 2021 |
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From 1942 to 1945, William Stafford was interned in camps for conscientious objectors in Arkansas and California for his refusal to be inducted into the U.S. Army. Down in My Heart is an account of the relationships among the men in the camps and their day-to-day activities - fighting forest fires, building trails and roads, restoring eroded lands - and their earnest pursuit of a social morality rooted in religious and secular pacifist ideals. In his new introduction to the book, Kim Stafford calls them a "generation of seekers" working full time "to envision a way to avoid the next war". First published in 1947, this "peace relic", as William Stafford later called his first book, offers a rich glimpse into a little-known aspect of the war and a fascinating look at the formative years of a major American poet.

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