Skywriting: William Stafford’s Legacy

Wed, 12 Feb 2014 18:18:19 +0000

After our well-attended launch event at In Other Words, we’ve scheduled another event to celebrate We Belong in History on Feb. 12, this time at Broadway Books on NE Broadway. Kim Stafford and the poet Emily Kendal Frey will be there, as will some of the student poets from the collection. This of course has gotten us thinking about what makes a good book-related event and, with the William Stafford Centennial going on, there’s been no lack of choice.

Paulann Petersen and Dylan P.

Paulann Petersen and student poet Dylan P. at the We Belong in History launch.

Our previous event for We Belong in History was something of a family affair; it was intimate and cozy, with students and poets crowded together as they are in the best sort of seminars. This suits our role as a learning press, but it isn’t by any means the only way to run this kind of event. Unfortunately, the weather kept us away from the grand Stafford Centennial Celebration put on by Literary Arts, but late last year there was a smaller, quieter event that provided a useful contrast with our own plans. Saturday December 14, 2013, saw the release of Winterward, William Stafford’s creative doctoral dissertation, by Tavern Books. More than eighty Stafford fans settled into the pews of the Eliot Chapel at Portland’s First Unitarian Church to hear Kim Stafford, Paulann Petersen, and Stafford archivist Paul Merchant read some of William Stafford’s poems and tell stories about both the book and the poet, some of which will be published later in 2014 as part of Tavern Books’ Honest Pint subscription series.

Kim Stafford, Paul Merchant, and Paulann Petersen

Kim Stafford, Paul Merchant, and Paulann Petersen at the Winterward launch.

Perhaps it was the setting, but the atmosphere was subdued and respectful, although alert with interest. In spite of the opportunity to mingle afterwards, there was a clear division between the speakers, or performers, and the audience. It was like a university lecture, or perhaps a memorial service, a celebration of a poet’s legacy rather than a continuation of it—and both are necessary. We’re glad the Stafford Centennial has provided the opportunity for all kinds of celebrations of the poet and the teacher; we’re especially glad that we have been a part of it—that we, as students of publishing and poetry, belong in history, too.

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