Oregon Poet Laureate Kim Stafford Visits LB To Meet With The Community

Students, faculty, and other community members take part in a writing exercise during Stafford’s poetry workshop.

The Russell Tripp echoed with folky guitar, and the voice of Oregon Poet Laureate Kim Stafford filled the theater. Smiles filled the faces of those attending, the lyrics were a delicate balance of lighthearted, upbeat, and profound.

At the end of his song, Stafford set down his instrument and walked down the steps to mingle with the crowd. He had just given a short speech and Q&A regarding the teaching of poetry, and had completed the first part of his trip to LBCC.

Stafford closes his speech at the Russell Tripp theater with an original song.

Stafford attended a short luncheon alongside Regional Director Jeff Davis and current LBCC Poet Laureate Waldo French, as well as previous LBCC poet laureates and other faculty. The table conversation turned from casual quickly to a discussion of how academically applied poetry can be beneficial to the student body.

“I think some view poetry as an esoteric craft to be practiced by the few,” Stafford said. “But what I’m experiencing here is that it’s a fundamental opportunity for everyone to contribute to the thinking, the feeling, and the stories that we need.”

The casual lunchtime discussion soon evolved into an observation of how students and faculty can use poetry to their academic advantage. Topics of discussion included incorporating social media, doing on campus projects, and giving incentives for students who are striving towards an education in writing and communication.

“Poetry is one of the oldest ways of connecting, but it is adaptable,” Stafford said, “Poetry is the perennial young person, that out of the blue just starts singing at a party.”

After the luncheon, tables and chairs were quickly rearranged to accomodate for the upcoming workshop. Students, faculty, and other community members flooded the room, and before long students were sitting on the ground or standing with backs pressed against the walls to get a glimpse of Stafford as he gave the workshop.

Zach Skalet fills his notebook with strategies and structures for writing poetry.

Zach Skalet is an OSU student who attended the workshop in hopes of improving his writing strategy. “I don’t have a process for writing, and it’s really difficult for me to just kick start something,” said Skalet. “Using the three titles technique or dividing my writing up into steps one, two, three, and four, I think I can implement that, and it can help my writing grow immensely.”

Stafford encouraged the room to seize their memories and emotions and to distill them and categorize them into short journal entries. His untied shoelace and gesticulating hand motions betrayed organized chaos of the writer’s mind, and attending students watched and listened to him closely as he led them from one activity to the next.

“A lot of the time I’m paralyzed with the fear of the page,” said LBCC student John Sisul after the workshop. “I think what I took away from this was to just start writing whatever comes to mind, and worry about revision later.”

“I am overwhelmed by the immersive dimensions of poetry in this community,” Stafford said of his experience at LBCC. His hope for students to latch onto the medium of poetry emanated from him as he spoke, and several times he encouraged small groups of students to dig deep for those special words.

“The movement of a poet is from solitude to solidarity,” said Stafford as the workshop attendees dissipated. “Find others who are good listeners, who hope for the best for your words and path ahead, and find groups where you can encourage each other.”

Story by Caleb Barber

%d bloggers like this: