New Poet Laureate Named (and it's not who I thought it might be)

This just arrived as an e-mail message from the Oregon Arts Commission. I'm poaching it here so I can link to it since I can't find a press release online yet.

Governor Appoints Paulann Petersen as Oregon’s Sixth Poet Laureate

(Salem) – Governor Ted Kulongoski has named Paulann Petersen of Portland to a two-year appointment as poet laureate of Oregon. Petersen will be Oregon’s sixth poet laureate since 1921 when Edwin Markham first took the post. She succeeds Lawson Fusao Inada of Medford, who held the post since 2006.

“Paulann Petersen is the perfect choice to serve as Oregon’s poet laureate,” said Governor Kulongoski. “Her wonderful poetry and her commitment to sharing her craft with the people of Oregon through her teaching and service exemplify the kind person that is ideal to serve in this position.”

Paulann Petersen was born and raised in Oregon and spent half of her adult life in Klamath Falls. She is a widely published poet, with four collections – The Wild Awake (2002), Blood-Silk (2004), A Bride of Narrow Escape (2006) and Kindle (2008) – and several chapbooks to her credit. Petersen has received several awards, including Stanford University’s Wallace Stegner Fellowship in Poetry, two Carolyn Kizer Poetry Awards, and Literary Art’s Stewart Holbrook Award for Outstanding Contributions to Oregon’s Literary Life.

Petersen is a committed teacher who has taught high school English and led dozens of workshops schools libraries, colleges, and writer’s conferences across Oregon. Petersen is an active board member of the Friends of William Stafford, Oregon’s fourth poet laureate, and organized the William Stafford Birthday Celebration each January. That celebration has now expanded to 58 events, 40 of them in Oregon.

In February, the Oregon Cultural Trust and partners solicited nominations in a public process. A committee of writers, poets and cultural leaders considered 17 nominations submitted from around the state for the post. The poet laureate position is a collaborative project of the state’s five statewide cultural partners, Oregon Arts Commission, Oregon Heritage Commission, Oregon Historical Society, Oregon Humanities and State Historic Preservation Office, with funding from the Oregon Cultural Trust. The position is funded with a stipend of $10,000 per year for the poet laureate’s work, with an additional $10,000 available to support the laureate’s travel and other expenses.

Editorial Note: I particularly like this one:


The wonder isn't that lightning
strikes where it does, but that it doesn't
strike everywhere. Specifically me.
It isn't the frequency of car crashes,
but their infrequency. Traffic flicks along
in its speed and perplexity, each move,
each surge a potential disaster.

The heart beats out its strange
litany of the enormously possible,
never excluding disease and stricture.
Why does my blood run so easy and warm?
This is the wonder: me approaching
the traffic light just turned yellow,
my foot pressing my trust down
into the brake, the car in agreement
coming steady steady to a stop.

—Paulann Petersen

From Prairie Schooner, Volume 73, No. 2, and
A Bride of Narrow Escape, Cloudbank Books, 2005.

UPDATE: The Oregonian's Jeff Baker takes the reporting of this story a step further by writing something original about it, rather than regurgitating the press release. You can find his story here.


Anonymous said...

Learning makes life sweet...................................................

Miss Laura said...

Man, what's with all the posts? Someone pinch you guys or sumthun? More pinches, please.

I heard this news on the radio today when I was driving to heck and gone. Thanks for being on top of it. Much better than I've been doing.

BHW's Blog said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
BHW's Blog said...

Your selection of Ms. Petersen's poem, "Miracle," is notable and insightful. You see, she selected it as her impromptu selection of a "signature poem" when she was the guest on KOPB's "Thinking Out Loud" on Tuesday, June 8th.