William Stafford fans celebrate his work

The late poet laureate William Stafford will have more than 60 birthday celebrations this month. Each January, Stafford's birthday month, audiences gather throughout the country and around the world to honor one of the nation's most beloved poets.

In Ashland, the Southern Oregon University Hannon Library will host a tribute to Stafford Thursday Jan. 17, at 7 p.m. in Meese Meeting Room 305.

The program will feature Oregon's current poet laureate Lawson Inada, as well as local poets who will read works by Stafford along with a poem of their own.

Readers include Amy Miller, Jay Schroeder, Ann Magill, and K. Silem Mohammad. After the poets read, members of the audience are invited to read one of their favorite Stafford poems or share a personal story connected with the poet. At the end of the evening audience members will see a video clip of Stafford speaking and reading one of his poems.

William Stafford was a critically acclaimed and prolific writer, authoring 67 volumes in his lifetime. Winner of numerous literary awards and poetry honors, he served as Oregon's poet laureate for 16 years. His poetry is read worldwide and new books of criticism continue to be published about Stafford's work.

In 2005, Oregon State University Press released "Down in My Heart," Stafford's memoir of his years as a conscientious objector. Even after his death in 1993, Stafford remains a popular and widely read poet.

Ashland's celebration of Stafford is co-sponsored by the Friends of William Stafford, an international non-profit, and the Friends of the Hannon Library. Patricia Wixon, host of the event and a board member of both organizations, has been participating in the tribute for 10 years.

Every year, the event gets bigger and Stafford celebrations are happening all over the globe.

"This year, there are 63 readings across the country as well as Scotland, Mexico, Malaysia and Sweden," Wixon said.

For the local celebration, Wixon says she tries to get a variety of poets. She hopes Thursday's reading will draw a number of audience members who wish to read a poem or speak about Stafford.

"Stafford died almost 15 years ago, so there are fewer people around who knew him well," Wixon said.

Wixon and her husband Vincent, both writers, were friends with Stafford and his family. Vincent Wixon is a scholar of Stafford's archives and has co-edited books on the late poet's writing.

The couple is proud of their work honoring Stafford's literary and social contributions.

"One of the things that has meant the most to us in his writing is his dedication, and his witnessing the better part of human nature and keeping that peace-loving spirit in all of us," Patricia Wixon said.

For further information contact Mary Jane Cedarface at 541-552-6836.

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