Each year, poets in Oregon and elsewhere celebrate the prolific poet William Stafford to mark his January 17 birthday. There seem to be fewer readings than usual this year, but we’ve found these three free online events:

  • Saturday, January 9, 2021, 2:00pm – Milwaukie Poetry Series and the Ledding Library present a William Stafford Birthday Celebration with featured readings and an open mic.
  • Thursday, January 14, 2021, 7:00pm – Southern Oregon University presents the 26th Annual William Stafford Poetry Celebration with featured poets Angela Decker, Barry Vitcov, Susan DuMond, Pepper Trail, Tiel Aisha Ansari, and Michael Dylan Welch, followed by a special presentation by James Armstrong on “William Stafford and Popular Modernism” as well as an open mic.
  • Sunday, January 17, 2021, 3:00pm – Oregon City Public Library presents a William Stafford Poetry Reading by members of the Third Monday Authors Group, plus an open mic.

If you know of other 2021 Stafford celebrations, please feel free to note them in the Comments.

William Stafford

January 13, 2018

January 17 is the birthday of prolific poet William Stafford. To mark the occasion, a variety of readings are scheduled in Oregon (where Stafford spent much of his adult life teaching at Lewis & Clark College), Washington, and elsewhere. Here’s a sampling:

January 13 – Milwaukie, ORWilliam Stafford Celebration – 2:00pm – at Ledding Library
January 13 – Mt. Angel, ORWilliam Stafford Celebration: A Light in Dark Times: Poems of Peace and Affirmation – 2:30pm – at Mt. Angel Bookstore
January 16 – Lake Oswego, ORWilliam Stafford Birthday Celebration – 7:00pm – at Lake Oswego Library
January 17 – Oregon City, ORWilliam Stafford Celebration – 6:00pm – at Oregon City Library
January 17 – Winthrop, WAWilliam Stafford Birthday Reading – 5:00pm – at Trail’s End Bookstore
January 21 – Lake Oswego, ORPeregrine Literary Series will hold an open mike in the spirit of William Stafford – 3:00pm – at Stickmen Brewery
February 26 – Portland, ORAn Evening of Poetry with Paul Merchant: National Advisor to the Friends of William Stafford – 6:00pm – at Frank Manor House, Lewis & Clark College

For more on William Stafford’s life, poetry, and related activities, see the William Stafford Archives or Friends of William Stafford.
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Why I Am Happy broadside

finding William Stafford

January 17, 2016

photo by Kari Galbraith

Born in Hutchinson, Kansas, on January 17, 1914, William Stafford lived in Oregon for much of his life and is widely celebrated with readings on and around the anniversary of his birth. In addition to his 67 books and extensively read and published poems, Stafford’s words mark a route through Cascadia.

In 1992, when the Forest Service approached Stafford to write ‘poetry road signs’ that would be placed at waysides on the North Cascades National Scenic Highway, he agreed. Of the 17 poems he completed for the commission, seven were selected and put into place in 1994. Through the years since, the porcelain plaques have been repaired, replaced and even relocated. In 2004, The Academy of American Poets included the Stafford poems among the 31 sites designated as National Poetry Landmarks. (Note: while the official list only contains 30 of the 31 sites, not including the Methow poems, the designation is mentioned in a Seattle PI article from the time and one imagines the Stafford poems are the 31st site.)

You can read the poems in the November 28, 1994, edition of High Country News (they are included in the book Even In Quiet Places) or, when the snow melts, you can go in search of them yourself. The locations are listed here. The 2009 map below, from the Friends of William Stafford, shows the location of five of the plaques and all seven poems appear on a Methow Valley Public Art Map. For further reflections, read the article by Janet and Edward Granger-Happ on their experience searching out the signs just four years after they were put in place.

2009 map
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photo by Kari Galbraith

on poetry

January 17, 2015

William Stafford“Readers should not be loaded with more information and guidance than a lively mind needs — puzzlement can be accepted, but insulting clarity is fatal to a poem.”
William Stafford
(January 17, 1914 – August 28, 1993)
Join in the celebration of William Stafford’s poetry at the William Stafford Tribute Event: An Evening of Poetry, tonight, January 17, 2015, at 7:00pm at Village Books in Bellingham. For additional events, see the Friends of William Stafford website.
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