Arts and Entertainment

A spoken-word celebration

The poet, the pacifist, William Stafford - couresty, Ted Watts
The poet, the pacifist, William Stafford
— image credit: couresty, Ted Watts

Renowned poet and pacifist William Stafford’s organic, every-day life poetry identifies with many of the virtues widely held throughout hearts in the Pacific Northwest.

His eloquently accessible and simplistic style was described as “a gentle, mystical, half-mocking and highly personal daydreaming about the western United States,” by James Dickey, in the book “Babel to Byzantium.”

Though he didn’t publish any poetry until later in life (mid-40s), Stafford inked hundreds of poems, served as poetry consultant (now known as Poet Laureate) for the Library of Congress and was honored with the Western States Book Award Lifetime Achievement in Poetry by the time of his death in 1993.

The Bainbridge Public Library and Friends of William Stafford will be celebrating the poet’s life at 7:30 p.m. Jan. 29 at the Bainbridge Library, 1270 Madison Ave. N, with a spoken-word event featuring local poets Jennifer Hager, Roger Midgett, Marit Saltrones and David Stallings, and an open mic for all to share their favorite of Stafford’s works.

The Kansas-born wordsmith was the big brother of a family of three children that bounced from town to town as his father looked for work during the Depression. Despite those tumultuous times, he graduated high school, worked through junior college and earned a bachelor’s degree from University of Kansas in 1937.

While pursuing a master’s in English, he was drafted into the armed forces when the United States entered World War II.

But Stafford conscientiously objected, registered as a pacifist and performed alternative homeland service. He would complete his master’s in 1947 and publish his master’s thesis detailing that service called “Down In My Heart.”

A year later, he came to the Northwest, taking root at a professor’s desk at Lewis and Clark College in Portland, where he would remain until retirement, purportedly writing one poem per day.

Suggested Stafford Reading

• “Traveling Through the Dark”

(1963 National Book Award winner)

• “The Rescued Year” (1966)

• “Stories That Could Be True:

New and Collected Poems” (1977)

• “Writing the Australian Crawl: Views on the Writer’s Vocation” (1978)

• “An Oregon Message” (1987)

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