Arts Center to host poetry reading

What do Hood River, Ore., and New York City have in common with Sapporo, Japan, and Marrakesh, Morocco? In January, these cities, along with other cities and towns in the Northwest and other states and countries will celebrate the birthday of William Stafford, Oregon’s most famous poet and one of America’s most important 20th century poets.

Local poets, writers, artists and musicians annually present a variety of events known formally as the William Stafford Birthday Commemorative Readings, sponsored by the Friends of William Stafford.

These popular “birthday parties” are being held in libraries, bookstores, art galleries, on college campuses, in a national park, at a chocolate café, a hospital, a state capitol and even a prison — wherever poetry can be read to and heard by appreciative audiences. The public is invited to these free events.

This year, Hood River’s William Stafford poetry celebration will be held on Sunday, Jan. 13, from 2-4 p.m. at the Columbia Center for the Arts. Aspiring poets and poetry lovers alike are invited to read a favorite Stafford poem and, if they wish, one of their own Stafford-inspired poems. People who just want to hear poetry are also welcome.

As many readers as possible will be included in this enriching afternoon. Anyone wishing to participate is asked to bring a copy of one or two favorite Stafford poems.

Following the reading, Mr. Stafford’s favorite, carrot cake, will be offered, along with other light refreshments. Broadsides of several of his poems will be available for purchase from Friends of William Stafford.

Jointly sponsored by the Friends of William Stafford and Columbia Center for the Arts, the reading event is usually well-attended.

William Stafford was born Jan. 17, 1914. He was a conscientious objector during World War II and remained a well-known pacifist his whole life. A favorite professor at Lewis and Clark College, where he taught for 30 years, he was known for his encouragement of other writers and for his advocacy of free expression in writing and speech.

Stafford is the author of more than 50 books and a recipient of the National Book Award. He died in August 1993.

The Friends of William Stafford is a nonprofit organization that supports and helps to underwrite a variety of literary projects and events open to the public. The FWS website is www.williamstafford.org.

For more information on the Hood River event, e-mail Debbie Dobbs: debbie.dobbs@gmail.com.

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