William Stafford's literary legacy

Tributes to Oregon's former poet laureate
William StaffordPhoto courtesy of Vince and Patty Wixon

Sixty-one birthday celebrations are planned nationwide this month in honor of Oregon's late poet laureate, William Stafford (1914-1993).

Local poets will pay tribute to this long-admired author during a reading at 7 p.m. Thursday, Jan. 17, in the Meese Room of the Hannon Library on the Southern Oregon University Campus, 1250 Siskiyou Blvd., Ashland.

If you go

What: Tribute to William Stafford

When: 7 p.m. Thursday,

Jan. 17

Where: Hannon Library on the Southern Oregon University campus, 1250 Siskiyou Blvd., Ashland

Admission: Free

Call: 541-552-6835

Ashland composer Todd Barton will present a recording of his composition, "The Dream of Now," inspired by Stafford's poetry and written 10 years ago for the prestigious Cavani String Quartet, based in Cleveland.

"Just before he (Stafford) passed, he recorded some of his published and unpublished poetry in my studio," Barton says. "Some of those poems inspired me to write this piece."

While the recording is played, poet Linda Barnes will read four of Stafford's works: "Growing Up," "The Magic Mountain," "Assurance" and "The Dream of Now."

"He (Stafford) was a soft-spoken gentleman with a great sense of humor and wit," Barton says. "He saw depth and beauty in everyday life."

Poets Jeannette Cappella, Bruce Barton, Richard Lehnert, Liz Robinson and Jay Schroeder will read a Stafford poem along with one of their own.

Audience members also are invited to bring their favorite Stafford poems to read. There are plenty from which to choose. Stafford wrote 67 volumes over his 79-year lifetime.

A prolific and inspirational author, Stafford won the National Book Award in 1963 for his first major collection, "Traveling Through the Dark." He won many other awards and, from 1970 to 1971, served as Poetry Consultant for the Library of Congress before being appointed Oregon Poet Laureate by Gov. Tom McCall in 1975.

During a 1971 interview, Stafford said, "I keep following this sort of hidden river of my life, you know, whatever the topic or impulse which comes, I follow it along trustingly. And I don't have any sense of its coming to a kind of crescendo, or of its petering out, either. It is just going steadily along. So I inhale and exhale. I experience, write poems, get now and then great feelings of being on the edge of writing something that reverberates through my own self, and that's very interesting."

The event is free. Call 541-552-6835.

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