William Stafford’s poem “Ask Me” (1975) uses quite a bit of detailed imagery which requires one to dive much deeper into this reading than just the literal meaning of its words. At first this poem seems to be a rather straightforward writing that describes a conversation held beside a river about certain aspects of one’s life. Every individual word used in Stafford’s “Ask Me” could be described as the stroke of a paint brush. Joining them together allows the reader to be able to see the entire poem as a work of art as a result. Through his use of sensory imagery and assonance, William Stafford paints a picture of how his life has been influenced by people’s intentions to hurt or help him.
The well-respected poet William Shakespeare claimed that the “mind’s eye” plays a very big part in the comprehension of literature. If the reader sees this poem and attempts to understand it for everything that it’s worth by taking every word for its face value, they will fall short of seeing the true art that Stafford has painted on this canvas known as “Ask Me.” If the one reading this story does not see everything so literally, he or she will get much more out of it as a result. What makes the words in this poem so special is that they are not meant to be taken literally. They are representative of certain things much bigger than what is spelled out. Examples of Stafford’s sensory imagery in “Ask Me” are as follows, “Some time when the river is ice” and “You and I can turn and look at the silent river and wait”. Stafford uses the word cold not only to describe the weather and the still river, but to also establish a mood of seriousness. He goes on to explain in his poem that whether people come into his life intend good or bad, it does not really matter. His emotions are that of a frozen river, still and unmoving. William Stafford describes the river as silent. Not only establishing an almost suspenseful mood which nearly forces the reader to want to continue reading, but also representing how unmoving the river is. The silence of the river is further proof that the river is unwavering no matter what might float towards it. Such is the same with Stafford’s emotions, whether one’s intentions are filled with love or fueled by hate is irrelevant to him, because he is unmoving just as the river. He doesn’t let irrelevant events that should not matter affect him in life.
Stafford also uses assonance throughout his poem as a different way to express himself. His assonance can be seen throughout “Ask Me” in examples such as “silent river” and “comings and goings”. This helps Stafford put a different spin on his poem than before. His use of assonance is ironic because this specific literary device is probably one of the most literal forms of comparison there is. When you think about it, comparing the letters within a word itself is the most basic interpretation of a word. He not only went out of his way with his imagery to show that his poem cuts deeper than just what meets the eyes, but he also used one of the most literal forms of comparison between words to show likeness in them. He reaches the heights of both symbolism and literalism in the same poem, showing how much of a true artist he is.
William Stafford not only used his poetic genius to form a story that is symbolic in nearly every word, but he also used such a literal form of comparison between words that show how Mosley !3people and their intentions can affect his life. He is more than just an author writing a story. He is a very talented poet and an artist. In conclusion, Stafford’s “Ask Me” tells a story through his sensory images and assonance to show how he feels about the effect that those around him have on his life.