June 07, 2013

Lewis & Clark launches yearlong William Stafford Centennial

Lewis & Clark launches a yearlong centennial celebration for the revered professor and former U.S. and Oregon poet laureate William Stafford.
  • William Stafford won the National Book Award in 1963 and served as Poet Laureate from 1971-72.
  • College Archivist Doug Erickson

Over the course of the next year, Lewis & Clark will hold a series of events commemorating the 100th birthday of William Stafford, who was one of the most prolific and important American poets of the last half of the 20th century. He was Oregon’s poet laureate from 1975 to 1989 and a professor at Lewis & Clark for more than 30 years.

Plans include a student-led symposium, an exhibition of Stafford’s photography, Stafford-themed courses, special alumni events at Reunion Weekend and Homecoming, and the publication of new books and other resources. For the most up-to-date information, click here.

The Source sat down with College Archivist Doug Erickson to learn more about Stafford’s legacy and the importance of this special event.

Why is William Stafford’s legacy so important to Lewis & Clark?

Stafford represents many of the things that Lewis & Clark strives to achieve. He was a citizen of the world—traveling across the globe to teach workshops and give poetry readings—offering advice on topics ranging from the environment to pacifism.

While on Palatine Hill, he taught over 2,000 students in his classes and countless others via interactions on campus, on overseas programs, and at poetry readings. In 1963 when he won the national book award for Traveling Through the Dark, it began to bring notice to Lewis & Clark College. In some ways it was the first time the college was viewed for its excellent faculty on a national stage. In 1971, he became the poetry consultant to the Library of Congress (U.S. poet laureate), again bringing attention to his own work and also highlighting the college.

In what ways are the Stafford archives used as a teaching tool?

Many students discover his archives on campus through classes being taught by the English faculty. Assistant Professor of English Pauls Toutonghi taught a class last semester on William Stafford in which eight students spent a semester engrossed in the literary manuscripts, correspondence, and published texts of the archives. Others come to it by way of the Stafford archives website, where many of his poems are found in draft form, along with audio recordings of his readings, and an ongoing blog on activities relating to all things Stafford.

With 20,000 pages of daily writing collected in the archives, where might those unfamiliar with Stafford begin to approach the material?

The website is a great place to start. Not only is there visual representation of the materials, it also has the finding aids (archival card catalog) for all the materials in the collection so one can browse and see where one might want to jump in.

The following video recordings are also available on YouTube:

What are the highlights of the yearlong centennial celebration?

The signature event will occur next year on February 7 and 8. On the evening of Friday, February 7, at the Newmark Theater in downtown Portland, an evening is planned to honor Stafford and to help look ahead for the next 100 years at what we might take from his life’s work and pursue for the future.

Much of the two-day symposium in February will occur on campus and will feature faculty, students, staff, scholars, and poets. This will be an opportunity to see Stafford’s influence on the arts as a whole, look at his work as a photographer, and to reflect on his influence on music, art, and the written word.

If you would like more information or want to be involved with the centennial celebration, please contact Doug Erickson at 503-768-7254 or dme@lclark.edu.

William Stafford Centennial