Lake Oswego's William Stafford, on the year of what would have been his 100th birthday, will be honored

William Stafford would have celebrated his 100th birthday on Jan. 17, 2014.

And while Lake Oswego’s — indeed Oregon’s — most famous poet won’t be around for the occasion, the Lake Oswego Reads 2014 program will more than keep his memory alive by focusing on Stafford and his writings.William Stafford

“The work of William Stafford is known throughout the world,” said Bill Baars, director of the Lake Oswego Public Library. “Birthday celebrations are held annually throughout the U.S. and in places as far-flung and diverse as Japan, Scotland, Mexico, Sweden and Malaysia. But Lake Oswego is the place he called home. He bicycled to the supermarket, used the post office, dedicated the library.”

While traditionally Lake Oswego Reads has focused on a single book by an author, next year will be special because it will encompass the writings of Stafford.

“Lake Oswego Reads 2014 — one community reads program of (more than) 100 in Oregon that will be celebrating Stafford’s centenary — will give us the opportunity to learn just why the one-time U.S. Poet Laureate has achieved international fame, is so respected in the literary community and continues to provide a significant influence on the lives of readers,” said Baars. “With the rest of the state celebrating our local treasure, it should make for another fascinating program.”

Stafford was one of the most prolific — and considered one of the most important, Baars said — American poets of the last half of the 20th century. He was born in Hutchinson, Kan., in 1914, and died of a heart attack at his home in Lake Oswego on Aug. 28, 1993, at the age of 79.

According to information provided by the Lake Oswego library, between 1960 and 1993, Stafford wrote more than 60 published collections of poetry and prose, including 12 full-length books of poems. Stafford’s first book of poetry, “West of Your City,” was published in 1960 when he was 46. His second, “Traveling Through the Dark,” won the National Book Award in 1963.

Stafford’s perspectives on peace, the environment and education serve as some of the most articulate and engaging dialogues by a modern American writer about three of the most important issues of the second half of the 20th century with lasting impacts on future generations, Barrs said. All but one of his books was written in Oregon.

Stafford was also an influential and beloved teacher of writing. He served as Poetry Consultant to the Library of Congress (the post now known as United States Poet Laureate) during 1970 and 71 and as Poet Laureate of Oregon from 1975 through 1989. In 1948, Stafford joined the faculty of Lewis & Clark College, where he taught until his retirement in 1980.

In 2009, the Oregon Library Association sponsored Oregon Reads to celebrate the 150th anniversary of Oregon statehood. In 2014, OLA is going to do it again and will be joining with many other organizations throughout the state in this centennial celebration. Every library will select its own books from a list including these by William Stafford: “Down in My Heart: Peace Witness in War Time,” “Every War Has Two Losers: William Stafford on Peace and War,” “Ask Me: 100 Essential Poems,” “The Osage Orange Tree,” “Everyone Out Here Knows: A Big Foot Tale” and a book by William Stafford’s son, Kim Stafford, “Early Morning: Remembering My Father, William Stafford.”

“Sometimes you might see him still — the spirit of William Stafford happily browsing the back stacks of the Lake Oswego library,” said Kim Stafford. “And why not? Wasn’t this his favorite place? And now that spirit returns for the William Stafford Centennial 2014 — our companion in reading, thinking, listening to one another.”

The steering committee for Lake Oswego Reads, consisting of librarians, community leaders, high school English teachers and high school students and numerous volunteers, will help with the celebration and offer programs that tie into William Stafford’s work in February. Some of the plans include a walk to the Stafford Stones, a panel discussion with wife Dorothy Stafford and children Barbara Stafford-Wilson, Kit Stafford and Kim Stafford, a visit to the Stafford Archives at Lewis & Clark College Aubrey Watzek Library, a screening of the film “Every War Has Two Losers” with the filmmaker and poetry boxes erected around Lake Oswego.

The official kickoff of Lake Oswego Reads Celebrating William Stafford will be Tuesday, Jan. 7, 2014, at the library. Complimentary copies of the book, “Ask Me: 100 Essential Poems,” by William Stafford, will be distributed to Lake Oswego library card holders, thanks to the Friends of the Lake Oswego Public Library.

Residents used to the Lake Oswego Reads format employed in past years with the author speaking during February at Lake Oswego High School may be wondering what the plan will be for 2014 since William Stafford no longer is with us. Instead, Kim Stafford, his son, will take to the podium to talk about his father and his poetry.

For questions on Lake Oswego Reads, contact Cyndie Glazer at 503-675-2538 or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. For Lake Oswego Reads updates, visit

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