Annual Reading to Honor Poet Stafford

Poet William Stafford

Paul Willis, professor of English at Westmont and former poet laureate of Santa Barbara, hosts the 12th annual community poetry reading to honor the life and work of William Stafford (1914-1993) on Saturday, Jan. 27, 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. This is the former site of the Los Prietos Civilian Public Service Camp, where Stafford served as a conscientious objector during World War II.

In case of rain, the reading will move to the Los Prietos Ranger Station at 3505 Paradise Road.

The event will feature Peg Quinn, a poet, mural painter, award-winning quilter and mixed-media artist. “Peg is wonderful,” Willis says. “She will get us started with a short selection of Stafford poems, and anyone present may read a Stafford poem in her wake. Come for a time of refreshment and recovery.”

Paul Willis

Paul Willis

Passes are required for the gathering; however, Willis says he has already purchased a group of passes at educational discount, which he will distribute upon arrival.

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.

In 2013, the annual gathering dedicated a permanent outdoor display about Stafford, the history of the camp and the role it played in the formation of Stafford as a poet. The sign was co-sponsored by Westmont College and the Friends of William Stafford.