A sign dedication and poetry reading hosted by Paul Willis, professor of English at Westmont and poet laureate of Santa Barbara, will honor the life and work of William Stafford on Saturday, Jan. 26, at 2 p.m. at the First Crossing Day Use Area in Los Padres National Forest, across from the Los Prietos Boys Camp, 3900 Paradise Road. In case of rain, “Remembering William Stafford: A Seventh Annual Community Gathering” will be held at the Los Prietos Ranger Station, 3505 Paradise Road.
During World War II, Stafford (1914-93) spent two years serving as a conscientious objector at the Los Prietos Civilian Public Service Camp. Stafford won the National Book Award in 1963 and became poetry consultant to the Library of Congress in 1970 and poet laureate of Oregon in 1975.
“This year we will be dedicating a permanent outdoor display about William Stafford and the history of the camp and the role it played in the formation of Stafford as a poet,” Willis says. The display, co-sponsored by Westmont College and the Friends of William Stafford, was erected this fall.
Paulann Petersen, the current poet laureate of Oregon and board member of the Friends of William Stafford, and Mark Sargent, provost of Westmont, will read selected Stafford works. Others in attendance will be encouraged to read a favorite Stafford poem as well.
Before the gathering, Peterson will lead a free, public poetry workshop, “Writing the Stafford Way,” from 9 a.m.-12:30 p.m. at the ranger station. Poets and would-be poets of all levels of experience are welcome to reserve a spot by contacting Willis at (805) 565-7174 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
“The most encouraging of teachers, William Stafford urged us to use writing as a vehicle for exploration and inquiry,” she says. “During this workshop — in that spirit of welcoming what might find its way onto a page — we’ll use some Stafford poems as springboards for generating our own poems. Our goal will be to have each of us leave the workshop with an outpouring of new work.”
Those attending the reading or the workshop will not need to buy or display a Forest Service Adventure Pass.