William Stafford’s poetry appeals to a wide range of people across all walks of life. On the occasion of the centennial of his birth, we look at the life and impact of Oregon's award-winning poet laureate.
Discovering William Stafford
The Stafford Centennial: A Conversation
January 17 would have been William Stafford’s 100th birthday. Stafford wrote more than 60 books before his death in 1993. He was a husband, a father, a teacher and a poet whose work resonates for people still.
Think Out Loud hosted a live conversation at Multnomah County’s Central Library in downtown Portland. Friends, family and admirers shared stories and talked about his life. Below is a clip about a life lesson he gave his kids: "Don't forget to talk to strangers."
Related Content: Think Out Loud's full conversation on Stafford's centennial
Stafford's Words in Calligraphy
Carol DuBosch: Master Calligrapher
The Portland Society of Calligraphers is working on an exhibit of 40-plus pieces of artwork based on the words of William Stafford. The work will be placed at Marylhurst University and the Main Branch of the Multnomah County Library in downtown Portland in April.
Arts & Life sat down with Carol DuBosch, a master calligrapher whose work will be featured in the exhibit and who has spent the last 50 years working in the art of crafting letters.
Influence On a New Generation
Portland State University's Ooligan Press published a poetry anthology inspired by the work of William Stafford. We Belong in History: Writing With William Stafford is a celebration of the poet through a lens of his lasting impact. The anthology is a collection of work from Oregon middle- and high-school students influenced by Stafford.
Ooligan received more than 50 poetry submissions from six schools and a few individual student writers. The best poems were selected and published.
Think Out Loud talked with the project manager of the anthology and three of the published student authors. Listen to each of them read a poem and talk about their process and craft:
Related Content: Think Out Loud's full conversation on We Belong In History
William Stafford is largely known for his work in poetry. However, he also left behind another large body of work — more than 16,000 negatives from his life as a photographer.
In the early ’60s, Stafford and his family went on a walk and passed by a garage sale where a retired FBI officer was selling his darkroom.
“On a whim, my dad bought this old beast of an enlarger and the trays and so on,” says Kim Stafford, William Stafford’s son. “My poor sisters came home from school one day and the inside of their playhouse was painted black. We found out later you’re not supposed to paint a darkroom black because you can’t see anything.”
STAFFORD'S Work Ethic
Every day for 50 years, William Stafford would rise before dawn and get something down on paper.
Stafford’s son Kim Stafford says his father would usually start by writing the date, followed by something ordinary like a recent memory or a dream. Then came something poem-like.
“It would lift off into poetry, often,” says the younger Stafford. “Not by strain, but by the natural buoyancy of the language.”
Notable Oregonians Reading William Stafford
Related Content: See more notable Oregonians read William Stafford's poems
Tucked away in a corner of Lake Oswego's Foothills Park is the Stonehenge-like monument known as the Stafford Stones. Created by artist Frank Boyden, the basalt columns are etched with inscriptions from William Stafford.
Lewis and Clark College
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Courtesy of the William Stafford Archives, Lewis & Clark College
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