Governor Kitzhaber reappoints Paulann Petersen Oregon’s sixth Poet Laureate
(Salem, OR) — Governor Kitzhaber has appointed Paulann Petersen of Portland to a second two-year term as poet laureate of Oregon. Petersen is Oregon’s sixth poet laureate since 1921 when Edwin Markham first took the post, and only the second woman to hold the title.
“Paulann Petersen is one of Oregon’s most beloved poets,” said Governor Kitzhaber. “Not only is she widely respected in the literary world, her commitment to bringing poetry to the people of Oregon makes her an ideal laureate for reappointment. I am pleased that she’ll continue her work for an additional two years.”
The Poet Laureate position is a collaborative project of the Cultural Trust’s statewide partners, Oregon Arts Commission, Oregon Heritage Commission, Oregon Historical Society, Oregon Humanities and State Historic Preservation Office. The laureate’s honorarium of $10,000 per year is funded by the Oregon Cultural Trust.
“We are thrilled with the Governor’s decision. Paulann has been a tireless advocate for poetry and literacy. She has reached out to help Oregonians of all ages more deeply understand the power of language,” said Christine D’Arcy, executive director of the Oregon Cultural Trust.
Petersen was born and raised in Oregon and spent half of her adult life in Klamath Falls. She is a widely published poet, with five collections: The Wild Awake (2002), Blood-Silk (2004), A Bride of Narrow Escape (2006), Kindle (2008), and The Voluptuary (2010). She has received several awards, including Stanford University’s Wallace Stegner Fellowship in Poetry, two Carloyn Kizer Poetry Awards, and Literary Art’s Stewart Holbrook Award for Outstanding Contributions to Oregon’s Literary life. She’s a deeply committed teacher who taught high school English and has led dozens of writers’ workshops and conferences across Oregon. An active board member of the Friends of William Stafford, Petersen organizes the William Stafford Birthday Celebration each January.
Petersen was appointed to the poet laureate post by Governor Kulongoski in 2010 following a public nomination process. As an ambassador for poetry in Oregon, Petersen talks to children, adults, and senior citizens about poetry as a connector for communities, families, and life milestones. She says she is often asked for appropriate poems to commemorate births, deaths, weddings and other key events. “Poetry is condensed, compressed, urgent, deep language that speaks to us where other kinds of language do not,” said Petersen. “Having a poet laureate says that we honor that part of ourselves that is the most creative, attentive, responsive.”
Petersen credits Oregon’s commitment to the arts and humanities, via the Oregon Cultural Trust, with the reinstatement of the position in 2006. “We would not have a poet laureate if not for the Cultural Trust and its partners,” said Petersen.
Tim Raphael, 503-689-6117
Amy Wojcicki, 503-689-5324