A Saturday Afternoon to Remember William Stafford
By Rachel Weight
On Saturday, January 27, at 2 p.m., at the first crossing day use area on Paradise Road in the Los Padres National Forest (see map here), an interactive public poetry reading will be held in honor of former U.S. poet laureate William Stafford. Born in January 1914, Stafford (pictured by Kim Stafford in 1993) published 57 volumes of poetry before his death in 1993.
This reading is one of many taking place across the nation to honor his life and work. Professor Perie Longo of Santa Barbara’s Antioch University, who teaches psychology and poetry therapy, and Jackson Wheeler, poet and author of Swimming Past Iceland, will be part of the presentations.
Stafford was a conscientious objector during World War II and performed alternative civilian work in the Los Padres National Forest, building trails and fighting forest fires. The Los Padres site was chosen because of the profound impact his experience there had on his work. The Paradise Road ranger station has also set up an exhibit honoring Stafford and the time he spent at the camp.
The event will be hosted by Westmont professor of English, Paul Willis, who explained, “When I discovered that one of Stafford’s formative life experiences took place at the Los Prietos Camp in Santa Barbara’s back yard, I knew I wanted to host a reading there in his memory for the community to enjoy.”