HR Reads kicks off Sunday

Hood River starts with a community gathering Sunday, but is underlined by a moral question.

“Who would I be and how should I do it?” said Helen James, is the central question poet laureate William Stafford asked when he got up at 5 a.m. every day for 50 years to write poetry.

Stafford, who would have turned 100 this year, is the focus of this year’s Hood River County Reads, which kicks off Sunday at 2 p.m. at Hood River Library. Events run through late April.

Hood River County Reads revolves around the Stafford book “Ask Me: 100 Essential Poems,” copies of which are being made available at no charge to anyone who wants one, Sunday, 2-3:30 p.m. at the Hood River Library and Tuesday, March 17, 5-7 p.m. at the Cascade Locks and Parkdale libraries.

But the Reads project is expanded this year to art and theater.

Art exhibits by the students in Amirra Malak’s AP art class at Hood River Valley High School and Gorge Photography Club examine Stafford’s work and be on display at the library starting Sunday.

So will the top three posters in a poster contest that was part of HRVHS art teacher Cathy Stever’s class. They are: first place: Alonso Magana; second: Erica Silva; third: Ahnauna Andrews.

The winners’ posters, along with those of their classmates, will be shown at the Hood River Library starting with the March 16 Hood River County Reads Kick-off. Alonso Magana’s poster will be copied and posted around Hood River County.

Other upcoming Hood River Reads events include a discussion on March 20, 6:30-8 p.m., by the Library Book Club of “100 Tricks Every Boy Can Do,” by Stafford’s son, Kim, at Hood River Library. Stafford will give a memoir writing workshop on April 16; sign-ups start Sunday.

Kim Stafford will be giving a public reading at Hood River Library on Sunday, April 27, at 2 p.m. This project is sponsored by the Friends of the Hood River County Library.

On April 6, 2-3:30 p.m., Oregon Poet Laureate Paulann Petersen will do readings of her own work as well as those of William Stafford, and discuss the meaning and impact of Stafford’s work.

Kids can join in on Hood River County Reads this year with “Everyone Out Here Knows,” Stafford’s poem about Bigfoot. If you’d like to learn more about Stafford’s thoughts on war, try “Every War has Two Losers.”

“William Stafford, poet, 100 years of poetry, poet laureate: how do we get to know him?” Helen James said.

“Whenever we get a book we look at what are the issues this author addressed,” she said. “You pick out the book, now what do you do? You try to make it come alive.”

Some previous books include “Stubborn Twig,” by Lauren Kessler; “The Circuit,” by Francisco Jiménez; and “Ricochet River,” by Robin Cody.

Hood River County Reads is sponsored and supported by the Friends of the Hood River County Library, with additional support from the Starseed Foundation, Hood River County Education Foundation, Hood River County Library Foundation, Hood River County Cultural Trust, and generous individuals.

On April 13, 2-3:30 p.m., Los Portenos Theater of Portland presents “Words that Burn,” a dramatization of the World War II experiences of William Stafford, Lawson Inada, both Conscientious Objectors, and U.S. Marine Guy Gabaldon, who worked to convince Japanese soldiers to surrender rather than kill themselves.

In addition to “Ask Me,” there are several books by and about Stafford for people to enjoy. “The Osage Orange Tree” highlights Stafford’s skill with prose as well as poetry.

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