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William Stafford poetry event set for Jan. 13

What do Hood River, Oregon, 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.

William Stafford was born on January 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.

Local poets and 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 (FWS).

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 Sunday, Jan. 13, from 2 to 4 p.m. at the Columbia Center for the Arts in Hood River. 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 most welcome. As many readers as possible will be included in this enriching afternoon. Note: If you would like to participate, please bring a copy of one or two of your 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.

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

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