One hundred years ago, beloved American poet William Stafford was born in Hutchinson, Kansas. Although drafted into World War II, Stafford abstained from fighting as a conscientious objector. Instead, he worked in the civilian public service camps. Throughout his lifetime, Stafford published more than sixty-five volumes of poetry and prose, winning the National Book Award in 1963 for Traveling Through the Dark. His poems have been described as “quotidian,” detailing the everyday, but also revealing hidden depth and complexity upon further examination.
Stafford remains particularly beloved in Portland, Oregon where he lived and taught for 32 years. He worked as an English professor at Lewis & Clark College from 1948 until his retirement in 1980. In 1975, he was named Poet Laureate of the state of Oregon. He and his wife, Dorothy, who passed away just last year, were and still continue to be the backbone of Oregon’s poetry community. One of their four children, a son named Kim Stafford, currently lives in Portland and is also a successful poet and essayist in his own right.
In honor of Stafford’s centennial, 23 Sandy Gallery is thrilled to announce that we have added two new pieces to our special Stafford Curated Collection. Both pieces are by Oregon artist, Cathy DeForest, and were printed with her son, Derek Pyle. The first, titled Hidden and Revealed: Centennial Celebration of William Stafford’s Aphorisms, is a letterpress printed accordion book with four pockets. A section of the aphorism “For now, here are the rules: Be someone. Be here.” is printed on the outside of each pocket. In addition, each pocket contains a loose-leaf page printed with a William Stafford aphorism. The second piece, Portraits: Aphorisms by William Stafford, is a letterpress book of Stafford’s previously unpublished aphorisms that includes a photo of Stafford taken by his son, Kim.
If you are in the Portland area this weekend, besides stopping by the gallery to see our Stafford collection in person, you should also check out the event Making Peace: A Reading of Stafford’s Poetry and Prose Against War at Blackfish Gallery, 420 NW 9th Avenue, on Sunday April 13th at 2 p.m. This event celebrates Blackfish Gallery’s 35th anniversary, as well as Stafford’s centennial. Featured readers include Tiel Aisha Ansari, Ron Bloodworth, Mike Langtry, Dianne Step, and Mark Thalman.
For a list of more Stafford centennial events around the U.S., visit http://stafford100.org.