Despite a rare winter storm that left Portland under a blanket of snow, hundreds of longtime poetry lovers and Stafford fans met at the Newmark Theatre, clad in warm jackets and thick scarves, to celebrate the life and work of Oregon’s greatest poet.
Nationally-known poets Li-Young Lee and Tony Hoagland had traveled from Chicago and Houston respectively to read work of their own that they said had roots of influence in Stafford’s poetry. Young and Hoagland also discussed Stafford’s legacy together with Kim Stafford, in a roundtable that touched on Stafford’s philosophies and work ethic.
The entire night was presided over by Portland’s own Matthew Dickman, poetry editor of Tin House. Lewis & Clark professor Mary Szybist, fresh off her National Book Award win for her collection Incarnadine, recited Stafford poems in tandem with Dickman, and Oregon’s poet Laureate Paulann Petersen spoke to a rapt audience about the importance of Stafford’s conscientious objector status. A definite highlight of the evening was a slideshow of Stafford’s own photographs that he took over the course of his lifetime.
We know there were many poetry fans who were forced to miss the event due to the unusually inclement weather. We hope there’s another opportunity in the near future to gather and celebrate Oregon’s rich literary history. If you’d like to speak to someone at Literary Arts about your experience around the Stafford Centennial, please call Lydah DeBin, Director of Development & Marketing, at 503-227-2583 x106.