Wednesday, April 29, 2009

William Stafford Teaching

In response to the current article in the Lewis & Clark Chronicle ("William Stafford Returns to Lewis & Clark"), William Sack writes a reminiscence of Stafford as a teacher, ending in a pleasantly rueful poet's comment: 

In 1954 I was a sophomore pre-med student. I took William Stafford's course, Intro. To English Literature because it was required to have some English. Little did I know how lucky I was! That course has stayed with me over the past fifty- five years. When Dr. Stafford read a poem, one was transported into another world. I've never heard anyone read a poem the way he could. (At the time  I didn't know he was a famous poet himself.) Anyway one day, after reading a sonnet of Shakespeare's, he sighed and said, "After Shakespeare everything else seems a bit shabby." 
Bill Sack, '56

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Another World Instead: William Stafford Peace Symposium (May 14-16)

The William Stafford Archives will be teaming with the Lamb Foundation to sponsor two literary events in the summer: a three-day peace symposium at the First Unitarian Church in downtown Portland, and a July project working with local teachers to create curriculum based on the work of William Stafford. The symposium ("Another World Instead") will present an evening of films, including the premiere of Haydn Reiss's new film "Every War Has Two Losers," an all-day Friday workshop led by Kim Stafford and Fred Marchant (editor of the edition of William Stafford's early poems, Another World Instead), followed by an evening poetry reading, and a Saturday series of papers by scholars of pacifist writing including Jeff Gundy, Philip Metres, Fred Marchant, Mary Szybist, and members of the Archives team.

Friday evening and all Saturday events are free and open to the public; the film showing (for which there will be a small admission fee) is at the Northwest Film Center.  For further information about the symposium in general, please visit the following website: 

For information on the all-day Friday class (for which credit is available) see: 

or contact Ashley Powers / / 503-768-6043.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Stanford English Professor reads Stafford Poem on NPR.

Can Poetry Save the Earth?: A Field Guide to Nature Poems Cover
John Felstiner was on NPR this morning to promote his new book, 'Can Poetry Save the Earth?'. He answers this question throught the voices of many poets, from William Carlos Williams to an eight year old boy named El'Jay Johnson. On the program he reads Stafford's, 'The Well Rising'.  It was read in response to the reporter asking him to pick just one poem that might save the Earth. Here is a link to the whole segment on NPR. Thanks to Kim Stafford and John Felstiner for alerting us to this segment.  Felstiner's Book can be found at:
- Doug Erickson 

John Felstiner

Monday, April 6, 2009

Don Emblen, Glen Coffield, and William Stafford by Kim Stafford

"How did you meet William Stafford?"

This past week, I had a chance to visit with a gentleman named Don Emblen, an old-time friend of William Stafford living in Santa Rosa, California. I asked Don how he had first met William Stafford, and he told the following story...

Don and his wife Betty were living in southern California after World War II, in a house Don had built, and one day they saw a notice in the public library for an unusual venture, the "Gruntdvig Folk School," run by Glen Coffield on the slopes of Mt. Hood in Oregon.

Don was a Navy man, and Glen had been a conscientious objector at Camp Angel on the Oregon coast, and had started Grundtvig as a place to change the world.

Don and his wife decided to take the plunge and join the cause. They rented out their house and headed for Oregon. When they arrived they were surprised to see that the house where Glen resided was an unfinished shack anchored to four huge firs that swayed in the wind, and it was cold, and there was no food. At this point, Betty realized she was pregnant, and Don announced to Glen that he was going to personally construct a room warm enough to keep his wife comfortable.

The rent money Don and Betty had brought from California was the only thing keeping Grundvit School alive, and Don felt he was entitled.

For some reason, this struck Glen, the ultimate idealist, as “soft,” and he refused to let comfort be part of the plan. Things started heating up, and eventually, Glen and Don decided they had to duke it out to settle matter. The Pacifist and the Navy man repaired to a clearing in the forest, raised their fists, looked into each other’s eyes—and burst out laughing.

Friends again, they decided to continue construction, which turned out to require scavenging from abandoned lumber camps nearby. One day they found a battered baby buggy in a camp dump, and used the flimsy chassis to drag salvaged boards up the mountain to the shack. Glen was thrilled with their success that day.

But the small party of idealists was starving. The rent money was gone, and Glen had no resources at all. Enter William Stafford, visiting his old friend Glen, and carrying a ham—a whole ham. Everyone feasted.

Don’s last memory of Glen was that the tall idealist had broken his leg, and was sitting in pain beside a sack of wheat in the remote shack, eating the kernels one by one.

Don assumed Glen had died there, until I told him no—Glen eventually headed south to the Bay Area, and ran a theater company, wrote symphonies, and continued to personally transform the world.

How many other stories of William Stafford’s life and times are waiting for us to ask a saint from those days, “How did you know this man?”

Kim Stafford