Friday, January 13, 2012


Photo c. by Steven Hind of Hutchinson
You can make William Stafford's birthday a personal poetry holiday with your own readings of his work, or you can meet friends and share poems, prose and memories. Stafford inspired many of use to respect words, land, community, history, and libraries. He followed his own path, as a conscientious objector (his mother was from a pacifist church) and as a writer. We remember him in Kansas.The Oregon group Friends of William Stafford maintains a website (and fine organization) with all known William Stafford birthday commemorations. The FWS website explains: "January Birthday Celebrations continue to expand around the world with new venues for 2012. Each event is hosted locally and always features well known poets. Readings include favorite William Stafford poems, followed by original poetry or stories inspired by the work of Mr. Stafford. Very often, readers share personal anecdotes about their friendships or encounters with Mr. Stafford. These events are inspirational and invigorating to all those who love poetry and poets. We encourage you to attend one of these Birthday Celebrations and experience how uplifting they can be." Shelf Awareness (subscribe via for this free newsletter) has a piece on Stafford's birthday featured, by Robert Gray, called "Poetry, Community & William Stafford's Birthday." It begins:
Making these word things to
step on across the world, I
could call them snowshoes.
It has been a snowless winter here in upstate New York, but this morning six inches cover the ground and big flakes are falling as I consider the opening lines of "Report from a Far Place" by the late William Stafford
, whose birthday is next Tuesday.Stafford has, suddenly and quite unexpectedly, become my winter poet."
Gray goes on to say he is rereading The Way It Is: New & Selected Poems (Graywolf, 1998), which has a generous selection of Stafford's opus. Those who want to understand his Kansas connections can read the selections and essays in Kansas Poems of William Stafford (Woodley 2010). I think it is accurate to say that Stafford is a winter poet, one who looks into the dark nights and describes the infinity beyond the physical world. Denise Low