You and Art: Poem by William Stafford

Sometimes poems say everything that needs to be said. After a long discussion yesterday with someone who believed that the only things schools should teach is “what you need to do in life,” I realized how awful that would be. Most of what I do today didn’t exist when I was in school. I certainly would not have taught people how to handle communication problems in the workplace. There were no blogs, no Twitter and no websites. There were no computers, cell phones, faxes. Women who were in the workforce and got pregnant either “retired” voluntarily or were fired when their pregnancy became obvious. What I still use today is the problem solving I learned. How to think, not what to think. And, of course, that art is the benchmark of a culture.

You and Art

Your exact errors make a music
that nobody hears.
Your straying feet find the great dance,
walking alone.
And you live on a world where stumbling
always leads home.

Year after year fits over your face—
when there was youth, your talent
was youth;
later, you find your way by touch
where moss redeems the stone;

and you discover where music begins
before it makes any sound,
far in the mountains where canyons go
still as the always-falling, ever-new flakes of snow.

—William Stafford, from You Must Revise Your Life

—Quinn McDonald is a writer who teaches workshops and seminars on business and personal writing. She owns QuinnCreative, and is a creativity coach.

2 thoughts on “You and Art: Poem by William Stafford

  1. Things I wish schools could teach their students: how to think and analyze; how to read; how to write and communicate clearly; how to manage finances; how to appreciate the world they live in including the arts, the natural world, and ecology; and how to get along with their neighbors whether they live next door or half way across the globe.

  2. You’re quite right! A recent study of very recent MIT graduates in computer science revealed that even they use almost none of what they learned in school. In my work, I pretty much need to relearn about 80% of everything I know every couple of years. Learning new knowledge and skill is more important than most knowledge and skill you already have, at least in the things I do.

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