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Q&A: Kim Stafford Remembers Poet Father's Work Ethic

Oregon’s celebrated poet had a work ethic that was so strong, he wrote every day.

William Stafford, the former Consultant in Poetry to the Library of Congress, Poet Laureate for Oregon and Lewis & Clark College poetry professor, was born 100 years ago this week. Every day for 50 years, he 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.

Kim Stafford

Kim Stafford

John Rosman /OPB

“It would lift off into poetry, often,” says the younger Stafford. “Not by strain, but by the natural buoyancy of the language.”

What Stafford wrote didn’t always go to that realm. Kim Stafford says, “There were some clunkers.” But he says his father’s scribblings coalesced into publishable work about a quarter of the time.

Kim Stafford, a highly recognized writer himself, sheepishly admits he only started following his father’s example in the last few years. He says, “I advocate this. I recognize daily writing as a change agent in one’s life. I’m a hypocrite if I don’t do it.”

He now gets up every morning before the sun comes up and commits something to paper, just like his father.

“It’s not always something worthy,” Stafford says, “but it’s always a better day for having written something.”

To learn more about William Stafford, tune in to “Discovering William Stafford: An Oregon Art Beat Special” on Thursday, January 16 at 8 p.m. on OPB TV and to Think Out Loud on Friday, January 17 at noon & 8 p.m. on OPB Radio.

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