Today, I'm hosting a William Stafford Celebration. It's one of 62 events taking place this month.
The Stafford Celebrations began 13 years ago. Now readings and events take place every January across the globe, and not just in Oregon (where he spent most of his life) but also in Japan, Malaysia, Scotland, Mexico and Sweden.
In a world of so many writers, why do we celebrate one man?
In part because William Stafford was one of America's most prolific writers. He wrote over 20,000 poems and more than 50 books — and his first book wasn't published until he was 46 years old. He taught at Lewis and Clark College for 30 years, served as Oregon Poet Laureate, and earned a National Book Award.
He was also a pacifist. During World War II, he was a conscientious objector. He spent the war in Civilian Public Service work camps in Arkansas and California, where he did work for the U.S. Forest Service.
After decades of writing, teaching and encouraging other writers, William Stafford died in 1993 at 79 years old.
He believed that treasures were to be found beneath your feet, and that searching for things that fit together was to follow the "golden thread." About his own work, he once said, "I have woven a parachute out of everything broken."
Today's event, and all the Stafford readings, celebrate the life and work of an accomplished poet, but just as importantly — maybe more importantly — these gatherings encourage creative expression and urge us to make beauty "out of everything broken."
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