Get inspired by Kim Stafford’s “pandemic poems”
PORTLAND – Poetry can spark a range of emotions and has a long history of getting readers and listeners through difficult or uncertain times. Oregon’s ninth poet laureate, Kim Stafford, is making his poetry accessible to all Oregonians during the coronavirus outbreak.
Stafford, appointed by Governor Kate Brown, serves as an advocate for literacy, creativity, and art education. Before the outbreak of coronavirus, he regularly visited schools, libraries, and community centers to work with students and share poetry. Above, Stafford reads poetry to the 2019 Oregon Legislature
Although he’s had to change his delivery methods – his message remains the same. According to a recent Oregonian article, Stafford sees his duty as a poet to be a “witness to the world.” For him, poetry comes from two places: One is a deeply personal place of “intuition,” snd the other is a sense of trying to be a “servant of the world.”
He’s now focusing efforts on sharing poetry through online platforms. You’ll find his artwork in recordings of poetry readings, a poetry film, poems accompanied on harp by Bethany Lee, and an article from the Oregon State Poetry Association. His poems and photographs are posted on Instagram @kimstaffordpoetry with interactive poetry activities coming soon.
He has also teamed up with Portland’s Creative Laureate, Subashini Ganesan, to launch a COVID-19 emergency relief fund called Portland Area Artist Relief Fund. This fund helps independent/freelance artists in Clackamas, Multnomah and Washington counties who have lost income. They have awarded $95,000 to 245 Oregon artists.
“Kim is an absolute Oregon treasure,” Governor Kate Brown said. “His work paints a picture of the Oregon we love, even in times when it may seem unrecognizable. I hope all Oregonians can access these poems for a little comfort and reminder of why we love this state.”
His father, William Stafford, was Oregon’s Poet Laureate from 1974 to 1989. And like his father before him, Kim taught at Lewis & Clark College.
Stafford has written seven works inspired by the coronavirus, including the poem below:
Oregon Dawn in Spite of the News
By Kim Stafford
Before I can get to our statistics — so many
stricken, so many dead — I’m summoned
by the bird raising a ruckus outside, crows
and jays in festive outrage, trill, chirrr, and aria
from the little brown birds, the mournful
dove, the querulous towhee, rusty starlings
in their see-saw mutter, and a woodpecker
flicker hammering the gutter staccato.
On the porch, I’m assaulted by the merciless
scent of trees opening their million flowers,
as I inhale the deep elixir of hazel, hawthorn,
maple, and oh those shameless cherry trees.
And just when I’ve almost recovered
my serious moment, I gasp, helpless to see
the full queen moon sidling down
through a haze of blossoms.