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Professor Kim Stafford explores unity in book of post-election poetry

February 07, 2017

In the aftermath of the divisive 2016 presidential election, many struggled to process the outcome and to grasp the implications it would have throughout the country. Kim Stafford, associate professor and director of the Northwest Writing Institute at the Lewis & Clark Graduate School of Education and Counseling, was not immune to those feelings himself.

Turning to his daily writing ritual as a way to settle his mind, clarify his purpose, and prepare for a new kind of citizenship, Stafford thoughtfully curated his latest book of poetry, The Flavor of Unity, from post-election and pre-inauguration daily journals, observations, and poems.

The inspiration for the title came while driving to eastern Oregon to offer a writing workshop.

“On the side of a truck filled with Peruvian soft drinks,” he says, “I caught the company motto: El sabor que nos hace únicos. I thought that meant ‘The flavor that makes us one,’ though I later learned it means ‘The flavor that makes us unique’ (únicos/unidos). But given the divided nature of our nation, I went with my mis-translation, and ‘The flavor that makes us one’ became my theme. What is this unity, how can we cultivate it, how can we renew pleasure in company across divisions, and how can a sense of common purpose become our way forward together?”

The original printing produced 600 copies, which Stafford sent “to friends in Portland, Seattle, Washington DC, and elsewhere to be passed along to marchers, witnesses, friends and strangers” at the Women’s March on January 21. Thanks to the generosity of a donor, the books were distributed free of charge.

In an online review, PBS News Room’s Elizabeth Flock describes the work as seeming “to wrestle with two antithetical urges: one, to convince and persuade readers, and explicitly criticize the new president, and two, to unify and move forward.” Visit the PBS News Room website to read and listen to the title poem.

Copies are now available for purchase at

Stafford hopes readers of the book “may find something useful here for [their] own seeking.”

Kim Stafford will be teaching Poetry Writing, an Oregon Writing Project course, beginning April 5, 2017.

For complete details and to register, visit the course description page.

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