Like many of his readers must have, I first came to Kim Stafford's writing because of his father, the poet William Stafford. The elder Stafford had recently died (August 1993) and I was looking for some kind of solace and comfort. I cruised used bookstores, hoping to find some older collections of Stafford's work. What I found was a book with both their names, a collection of poems called Braided Apart. Poems on the left pages were Kim's, poems on the right, William's. This particular edition of Braided Apart was falling apart. A shot binding, loose pages, coffee stains, tattered corners. The owner—or series of owners—had written in the margins of many poems (they were, by their words, Stafford lovers like myself). Printed by Lewiston's Confluence Press back in 1976, the book had been, clearly and above all else, deeply read.
I'll admit this: I skipped right over Kim Stafford's work and headed straight to the poems by his father. I devoured them and felt somewhat consoled by the words—as I always am after a few William Stafford poems. Then I put the book away.
When I learned Kim Stafford was coming to the Log Cabin Literary Center this month, I went searching for Braided Apart. Since 1993, I have read several works by Kim Stafford—primarily prose, although he is also a fine poet and songwriter; I enjoy his loose, highly thoughtful and approachable style. His concerns, like his father's, run deep and are passionate, and his writing resonates with hope and intuition and other potent convictions of a thoughtful life.
My copy of Braided Apart, as I expected, did not age well. It looks like the last paperback on earth. But good poetry does age well, and I read the left pages this time and found the (then) young Stafford's work rich and reflective, with just glimpses—vestiges—of the father's voice. Then I read the entire collection again, straight through. And loved it. Then I visited the Kim Stafford home page (www.lclark.edu/~krs/) and read through some sample writings. And I became comforted, once again, knowing there is a Stafford out in the world, bringing us messages.
Stafford is the founding director of the Northwest Writing Institute at Lewis and Clark College. He holds a doctorate in medieval literature from the University of Oregon and is the author of a dozen books of poetry and prose, most recently Early Morning, Remembering My Father, William Stafford. He has worked as an oral historian, letterpress printer, photographer, teacher and is the literary executor of the Estate of William Stafford. He lives with his wife and children in Portland, Oregon.
In Boise, Kim Stafford will present a reading and conversation, "Personal Scripture: Poems, Stories, and Songs in the Seeker's Life," on Sunday, April 18, at 7 p.m. at the Log Cabin Literary Center, 801 South Capitol Blvd. Also in the Log Cabin Reading Room this month (National Poetry Month) is a display of poetry and prose broadsides in a traveling collection called How the Ink Feels. The collection comes from Friends of William Stafford, a nonprofit organization "dedicted to raising common awareness of the power of poetry and literature by modeling the legacy, life, and works of William Stafford."