4th Annual William Stafford Birthday Celebration

Professor with studentsOn January 17, 2013, in Herbster Chapel of Heidelberg University the talents of three remarkable women served as highlights as the campus community celebrated the poetry and life of William Stafford. English major Hannah Long-Higgins presented an interpretive reading of three Stafford poems developing the theme “The Way It Is.” Two more English majors received co-first prizes for their entries in the William Stafford First Line Poem Contest. Brandi Aldrich read “Feeling Is Believing,” based on Stafford’s “Sayings of the Blind,” and Emma Markley read “Restless,” based on “Waking a 3 A.M.”

Bill Reyer of the English Department opened the program with greetings and by sharing biographical details from Stafford’s life which framed the event’s focus on poems of Social Activism. Students, staff members, and faculty then shared poems by Stafford and pieces by other poets which have social activism and justice as their themes: Wendell Berry, Langston Hughes, Pat Mora, and William Butler Years, among others. Stafford’s spirit was richly in evidence as individuals shared poems about justice and the human condition. Democracy was the rule of the day as reader followed reader spontaneously to the podium.

Sponsored by the Office of the President and the English Department of Heidelberg University, the event was open to the entire campus and to the wider community.

Brandi Aldrich

Feeling is Believing*

“Feeling is believing,"
     he told me, pressing my ear to his chest gently.
The flakes outside didn't hold up on our moment,
     but rather pelted down on the ground in their rush.
The wind caressed our skin roughly,
     biting at anything that was exposed.
Though the cold outside created bumps and shivers through my body,
     his warmth set lava coursing through my veins.
Music soared through the atmosphere around us:
     the trilling flute played by the wind,
     the pounding drum of his heart.
On a night like tonight, I could almost believe.
     I could almost feel.

* William Stafford, *Sayings of the Blind"
Co-first Prize, William Stafford First-Line Poetry Contest

Emma Markley


*Even in the cave of night when you
have tried and failed to sleep,
you lie there slowly blinking,
your inner eyelid dark –
not as black as the night outside.

How your rice paper dreams flee;
they roll away in the frayed ball of trash
from the capsized wastebasket
the cat chases down the hallway.

You don’t move under the
cranberry afghan’s sandbagged safety
you hold your breath,
not to stop breathing,
but to feel the full stretch of each inhale.

You hear the metronome ticks of the grandfather clock
creaking through cracked plaster walls;
each one hits you like a drop of heavy rain.

You wait red-eyed for the sherbet glow of morning
to shine through the dewy spider web stretched in the window,
before you pull the covers up, roll over,
and let your toes pop out from under the blanket to breathe.

*William Stafford “Waking at 3 A.M”
Co-first Prize, William Stafford First-Line Poetry Contest