Celebrating Stafford

January 6, 2022

Every January, poets and poetry lovers throughout Cascadia (and elsewhere) celebrate William Stafford (January 17, 1914 – August 28, 1993) with a variety of birthday readings. Most (but not all) of the 2022 celebrations are online and most require advance registration. Here are a few. All times are Pacific; follow the links for details:

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.

Poetry Parley

August 20, 2020

John Morgan, who in normal years divides his time between Fairbanks, Alaska, and Bellingham, Washington, will be the featured poet for Poetry Parley on Wednesday, August 26, 2020, at 7:00pm Alaska (8:00pm Pacific) on Zoom. Based in Anchorage, the monthly Poetry Parley includes readings by the featured poet and selections from a ‘poet of influence’ read by the featured poet and other readers. This month’s poet of influence is William Stafford.

There’s more about Morgan and Poetry Parley in this article in Anchorage Press.

To get the Zoom link or to sign up to read a William Stafford poem, send an email to poetryparley@gmail.com.

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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Centennial celebrations

January 15, 2014

We Belong in History2014 marks the centennial of William Stafford’s birth, January 17, 1914, in Hutchinson, Kansas. To celebrate the occasion, there will be exhibits, workshops, readings of Stafford poems at libraries and bookstores and even new books. Here are a few (follow the links for additional details):

Friday, January 17 at 7:00pm – William Stafford Tribute Event: An Evening of Poetry with multiple readers at Village Books in Bellingham.

Tuesday, January 21 through 2014 – Stafford at 100 – A Centenary Exhibit on display at the Aubrey R. Watzek Library at Lewis & Clark College (Portland, Oregon) includes a selection of photographs, manuscripts, books and artifacts from the William Stafford Archives. A multimedia exhibition of photographs by William Stafford is on display in the Watzek Library atrium.

Thursday, January 23, 7:00pm – Elizabeth Austen, Kathleen Flenniken, Rebecca Hoogs, Gary Lemons, and David Wheeler will read selections of William Stafford’s work, along with one or two of their own poems that reflect a Stafford sensibility at the Elliott Bay Book Company, Seattle.

Saturday, January 25, 4:00pm – PoetsWest presents a celebration of the birth of William Stafford, plus open mic at the Green Lake Branch of the Seattle Public Library, 7364 E Greenlake Dr. N, Seattle.

Tuesday, January 28, 7:00pm – Last Tuesdays Poetry hosts William Stafford’s centennial with Leah Stenson and Shelley Reece and the new book, We Belong In History, student writing inspired by Stafford’s work, plus open mic, at Barnes & Noble, 7700 NE Fourth Plain Blvd., Vancouver, Washington.

Friday, February 7, 7:30pm – Lewis & Clark College and Literary Arts will celebrate the life and work of Oregon’s best-known poet, William Stafford. Hosted by Matthew Dickman, the evening will feature readings by Li-Young Lee and former U.S. Poet Laureate Ted Kooser, as well as appearances by Kim Stafford, National Book Award winner Mary Szybist, and Oregon Poet Laureate Paulann Petersen. At the Newmark Theatre, 1111 SW Broadway, Portland, Oregon.

Thursday, February 27, 6:00pm – In celebration of the William Stafford Centennial and the release of the anthology A Ritual to Read Together (Woodley Press, January 2014), a reading and celebration will take place at Caffe Ladro, 801 Pine Street, Seattle, in conjunction with AWP 2014. The reading is also dedicated to the memory of Dorothy Stafford. Many featured readers, including Kim Stafford.

See many more William Stafford Centennial Events & Activities (most in Oregon) on the Friends of William Stafford website.

Learn about the Ooligan Press project, We Belong in History: Writing with William Stafford, which engaged 7th-12th grade students in a writing competition inspired by Stafford’s writing. The resulting anthology is published this month.

poetry reading…

January 15, 2013

William StaffordEvery year, on or about January 17, poetry fans gather in bookstores and cafes, libraries and colleges, community centers and galleries to share the poetry of William Stafford. To honor the late poet (1914-1993) and mark his birthday, words from his prolific body of work (some 22,000 published poems) are given new voice.

Numerous events are planned, including a tribute reading on Thursday, January 17, 2013, at Village Books in Bellingham. A group of local writers will read favorite Stafford poems, as well as poems that use Stafford’s lines as models or inspiration. The reading is organized and emceed by Jim Bertolino, who says,

“Around the U.S., many readers of contemporary poetry would agree that the most significant Northwest poet from the 20th Century was William Stafford, who lived just outside Portland. I met Bill in 1968, when I was spending a year in Eugene, edited an anthology of Northwest Poets for Quixote Press in Wisconsin, and got to read with Stafford and several other Northwest poets in Portland. Stafford was a wonderfully generous man, who was an excellent teacher of poetry. He served as Poet-in-Residence at the University of Cincinnati in 1974, which was an amazing coincidence — given that I’d begun my career as a creative writing professor that year at the University of Cincinnati.”

In addition to Bertolino, this year’s readers are Luther Allen, Jennifer Bullis, Nancy Canyon, Denise duMaurier, Paul Fisher, Dick Harris, J.I. Kleinberg, Andy McBride and Betty Scott. The reading is free and starts at 7:00pm.

For more information on William Stafford, visit the Friends of William Stafford and see the profile at The Poetry Foundation.
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Photo by Chris Ritter

celebrating Stafford…

January 19, 2012

William StaffordEvery January, on or about the birthday of William Stafford (January 17), the poet’s fans gather for readings to commemorate his life and work. (Please note: the William Stafford Tribute planned for January 17 at Village Books in Bellingham, Washington, which was cancelled due to snow, has been rescheduled for Sunday, January 22, 2012, at 2:00pm.)

An exceedingly prolific poet, Stafford (1914 – 1993) was born in Kansas, but settled in Oregon in his 30s and lived there for the rest of his life. His poetry and prose is published in more than 65 of his own books and in innumerable collections and journals. He served as the U.S. Poet Laureate and earned many impressive awards and honors.

Dennis Schmidling, of Friends of William Stafford, is urging the Citizens’ Stamp Advisory Committee of the U.S. Postal Service to “honor William Stafford’s life and work by issuing a commemorative stamp in 2014, the centennial year of his birth.” To learn more, view Schmidling’s letter here (PDF, Adobe Reader required). To endorse the idea of a William Stafford commemorative stamp, send a letter (by U.S. mail only!) to Citizens’ Stamp Advisory Committee, c/o Stamp Development, U.S. Postal Service, 475 L’Enfant Plaza SW, Room 3300, Washington, D.C. 20260-3501.

Meanwhile, there’s the Village Books reading on Sunday as well as others throughout the northwest and beyond.
William Stafford photo

7:00pm ~ free
Village Books in Bellingham
William Stafford, 1993 (photo by Kim Stafford)
A celebration of the poetry of William Stafford
Readers include Boynton Contest winners
Luther Allen, Nancy Canyon, Dick Harris, J. I. Kleinberg,
Andrew Shattuck McBride and Carla Shafer
as well as Contest judge
Jennifer Bullis
and Contest awards ceremony emcee
James Bertolino
and former committee member / placard designer
Anita K. Boyle
additional readers include
Maria McLeod, Melissa Queen and Betty Scott

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