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Poetry Reading January 30: Remembering William Stafford (1914-1993)

January 25, 2010
Westmont College poet Paul Willis invites you to the fourth annual reading to honor the life and work of the poet William Stafford (1914-1993) on  Saturday, January 30 from 2:00-3:00 pm at the location where William Stafford served as a conscientious objector during World War II, the site of the Los Prietos Civilian Public Service Camp.
Local poets Nancy Lee and Bruce Schmidt will read a number of Stafford poems, and any of those attending are invited to read favorite Stafford poems as well. While there is nothing like hearing the poet read his or her own words, a quick google search didn’t reveal much along these lines. However, listening to someone read a poet whose words they’ve prepared well to read is a wonderful experience, especially in such beautiful surroundings as this event.
Here is the text of a widely anthologized poem of Stafford’s:
Traveling Through The Dark


Traveling through the dark I found a deer
dead on the edge of the Wilson River road.
It is usually best to roll them into the canyon:
that road is narrow; to swerve might make more dead.

By glow of the tail-light I stumbled back of the car
and stood by the heap, a doe, a recent killing;
she had stiffened already, almost cold.
I dragged her off; she was large in the belly.

My fingers touching her side brought me the reason–
her side was warm; her fawn lay there waiting,
alive, still, never to be born.
Beside that mountain road I hesitated.

The car aimed ahead its lowered parking lights;
under the hood purred the steady engine.
I stood in the glare of the warm exhaust turning red;
around our group I could hear the wilderness listen.

I thought hard for us all–my only swerving–,
then pushed her over the edge into the river.

“Remembering William Stafford” will be held at First Crossing Day-Use Area, Paradise Road, Los Padres National Forest.  Rain moves the reading indoors to the Los Prietos Ranger Station, also on Paradise Road. No day-use fee or Adventure Pass is needed to attend. Before or after the event enjoy a stroll along the Santa Ynez River. To get there, allow a half hour of driving time from Santa Barbara.  From 101, take Hwy. 154 to the top of San Marcos Pass.  Descend the other side of the pass 3.5 miles to Paradise Road and turn right.  The First Crossing Day Use Area is 5.5 miles up Paradise Road, Just past the Los Prietos Boys Camp.  (The Los Prietos Ranger Station is a mile closer to Hwy 154.)
A brand-new documentary film by Haydn Reiss, Every War Has Two Losers, is available now also. Above is the trailer. Based on the book of that name by William Stafford that was edited by Kim Stafford, Linda Hunt narrates and Peter Coyote provides the voice of William Stafford.  To order and to learn more: Graywolf Press recently published Another World Instead: The Early Poems of William Stafford, 1937-1947, edited by Fred Marchant.  Here’s a recent review:
For more poetry, jump on the train.
2 Comments leave one →
  1. January 26, 2010 1:17 am

    I had never heard of William Stafford before. That is an interesting poem, especially when read next to this quote I found in the all-knowing wiki. “I keep following this sort of hidden river of my life,” Happy Australia Day!

  2. Tim Tipton permalink
    January 26, 2010 4:56 am

    Two words: Brilliant & Beautiful!

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