[AL-Directors] Celebrate William Stafford's Birthday in 2009

Jim Scheppke jim.b.scheppke at state.or.us
Thu Oct 30 13:04:37 PDT 2008

Dear Colleagues:
For several years now I have helped the Friends of William Stafford
encourage libraries throughout Oregon to celebrate Stafford's birthday with
a community reading event.  William Stafford (1914-1993) was an Oregon and
US poet laureate and national book award winner -- probably the greatest
literary figure that Oregon has produced.  By celebrating his birthday we
librarians keep his poems alive in the minds and hearts of Oregonians, as we
should.  Here is a letter from my friend Paulann Petersen, herself an
accomplished Oregon poet, telling you how you can celebrate Stafford's
poetry in your library early next year ... --> Jim

October 28, 2008
Dear Oregon Library Directors,
This coming January, The Friends of William Stafford will again sponsor a
series of events to celebrate Bill Stafford¹s birthday--a way to help
continue his vision and work. So far, we have a number of events promised in
the Portland metro area, including at the Central Library in downtown
Portland, the Lake Oswego Library, Broadway Books in Northeast Portland,
West Hills Unitarian Universalist Fellowship in west Portland, and Portland
State University. We also anticipate events in Ashland, Eugene, Salem,
Corvallis, and Vancouver, among other sites. Last year we had over 60 events
in Oregon, Washington, California, Kansas, New Jersey, and Texas. 2008 was
our first international year: Stafford Celebrations took place in Malaysia,
Scotland, Sweden and Mexico!

Many of these events are held in libraries‹a fitting spot to celebrate an
Oregon writer whose work bore strong testimony to his respect for books.

Most events will follow the same format. They¹ll begin with a few writers
who will each either 1) read a favorite Bill Stafford poem and one of their
own poems in the spirit of Bill¹s work, or 2) read a couple of Bill¹s poems.
Then the program will be open to anyone in the audience who¹d like to read a
favorite Stafford poem. I¹ve been organizing these events for ten years, and
they¹ve been very successful. Their inclusiveness creates a strong sense of
community and celebration‹just what we want for such a birthday party.
On behalf of The Friends of William Stafford, I¹d like to encourage you to
organize a similar event at your library. It¹s really not too difficult or
time-consuming. Once you set a time and date, all you have to do is ask five
or six writers (or Stafford fans) to be featured at the event. Or you can
ask one writer to both be the host and invite other writers. Then get the
word out to the public.
Most libraries photocopy a flyer to have available at the check-out desk,
and put announcements on their web pages. Local newspapers and other media
are usually very happy to print or broadcast announcements. Asking the
featured writers to pass the word to other writers is effective. The Friends
of William Stafford board members (especially Joe Soldati and I) would be
happy to help you plan this.
Many people who attend these celebrations do not normally attend literary
events. They bring poems that hang on living room walls; they bring poems
off refrigerators; they bring poems that they carry with them in their
wallets‹often folded and unfolded so many times, they¹re almost in pieces.
They relate anecdotes about their encounters with Bill Stafford. They
explain why his poems are significant in their lives. These are moving
gatherings of readers and writers. What better site for them than at a
Please let me know what you think as soon as possible. I know that libraries
need to plan for events early, and Friends of William Stafford would like to
advertise your event in our next newsletter. I hope to hear from you soon.
Best to you,
Paulann Petersen
8403 S.E. 11th Avenue
Portland, Oregon 97202
paulann at paulann.net

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