Sunday, February 3, 2013

William Stafford Workshop and Reading, Santa Barbara, January 26, 2013

The seventh annual William Stafford poetry reading in Los Padres National Forest, Santa Barbara County, took place on January 26th. This was a special year: in addition to the afternoon poetry reading, there was a morning poetry workshop presented by Paulann Petersen, Poet Laureate of Oregon; and, the dedication of a plaque honoring Stafford at the reading site off Paradise Road. Above: the beautiful backcountry setting is the exact location of the Los Prietos Civilian Public Service Camp, a work camp where Stafford was stationed during World War II as a conscientious objector.

Paul Willis, Professor of English at Westmont College in Santa Barbara and a fine poet, is the organizer of the event. Here he is discussing the plaque, which was funded by contributions from many donors and officially sponsored by Westmont and The Friends of William Stafford. The plaque describes the history of Los Prietos and includes a Stafford poem written during his service.

Here Paulann Petersen discusses and presents some of Stafford's work. Mark Sargent, Provost of Westmont College, also gave a presentation, and members of the audience were invited to read a favorite Stafford poem. The morning workshop, held at the nearby ranger station, was by far the best poetry workshop I have ever attended.

For me, it was a special treat to spend the day with old and dear friends. Above: poets Enid Osborn and Sojourner Kincaid-Rolle. Abiding thanks to Perie Longo for the pleasure of her company, and to all the other poets who made the day so memorable.

For more information about William Stafford, visit the Friends of William Stafford website. January 17, 2014 will mark the 100th anniversary of his birth. He wrote daily throughout his adult life and produced approximately 30,000 poems. The poem below was featured during the workshop and was written two days before he died.

You Reading This, Be Ready

Starting here, what do you want to remember?
How sunlight creeps along a shining floor?
What scent of old wood hovers, what softened
sound from outside fills the air?

Will you ever bring a better gift for the world
than the breathing respect that you carry
wherever you go right now? Are you waiting
for time to show you some better thoughts?

When you turn around, starting here, lift this
new glimpse that you found; carry into evening
all that you want from this day. This interval you spent
reading or hearing this, keep it for life--

What can anyone give you greater than now,
starting here, right in this room, when you turn around?

William Stafford