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Professor Kim Stafford Chosen as Oregon’s Ninth Poet Laureate

May 15, 2018

Kim Stafford, associate professor and founding director of the Northwest Writing Institute, has been chosen to serve as Oregon’s ninth poet laureate, Governor Kate Brown JD ’85 announced this morning. Stafford will serve a two-year term as “an ambassador of poetry across the state.”

“There are many ways to serve this state and among them is clarity of language and passion of purpose, which may travel from one soul to another through poetry,” said Governor Brown. “Kim Stafford is one of our state’s most generous literary teachers and I am proud to appoint him as our next poet laureate.”

The author of a dozen books of poetry and prose, Stafford grew up in Oregon, Iowa, Indiana, California, and Alaska, following his parents as they taught and traveled through the West. Stafford’s father, the celebrated poet William Stafford, served as Oregon’s poet laureate from 1975 to 1990.

“Being the Poet Laureate of Oregon will allow me to do for communities statewide what I’ve been doing in writing classes at Lewis & Clark for 30 years: inviting people to sit together, abandon reticence, and tell their stories to the page. I look forward to advocating for community through poetry in Oregon,” Stafford said.

In the aftermath of the divisive 2016 presidential election, many struggled to process the outcome and to grasp the implications it would have throughout the country. Stafford, not immune to those feelings himself, turned to his daily writing ritual as a way to settle his mind, clarify his purpose, and prepare for a new kind of citizenship. The result: a book of poetry, The Flavor of Unity, which PBS NewsHour’s Elizabeth Flock described as seeming “to wrestle with two antithetical urges: one, to convince and persuade readers, and explicitly criticize the new president, and two, to unify and move forward.” (Listen to the title poem.)

“Kim Stafford has brought a poet’s voice and sensibility to the work of the graduate school for many years,” said Scott Fletcher, dean of the Lewis & Clark Graduate School of Education and Counseling, where Stafford teaches. “It has deeply informed our practice, from the classroom to the community of faculty and staff who are his colleagues. Just the right questions, modestly posed, richly explored, and provocatively left to inspire. A wonderful choice for Oregon’s poet laureate.”

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