Media Room

REMARKS AS PREPARED

July 17, 2018

Good evening, I’m Governor Kate Brown.

Thank you Chuck, for that kind introduction. And thank you to our outgoing Poet Laureate, Elizabeth Woody, for her service to the people of Oregon. As Brian mentioned, Elizabeth Woody completed her two-year term as the eighth Oregon Poet Laureate in April 2018. She was the first Native American to hold the post. During her term, she traveled to over 55 events, appearing at festivals, opening ceremonies for campuses and museums, national assemblies, state of Oregon conferences, art councils in Eastern Oregon, and poetry gatherings on the coast.

Like Elizabeth, I’m a woman of many words. However, few—if any —can be characterized as lyrical.

So I’ll borrow some from a much-beloved Oregonian writer, Brian Doyle, who sadly passed away last year.

   “We wrestle with our hearts all the time.
   The wrestling is who we are.
   How we wrestle is who we are.
   What we want to be is never what we are.
   Not yet. Maybe that's why we have these
   relentless engines in our chests, driving us forward
   toward what we might be."

One way we wrestle with our hearts is through the arts. And that is why I am so glad to be here today to celebrate Oregon’s artists and our wordsmiths—our novelists, and of course, our poets.

The arts have the power to transform the daily and the mundane, reminding us why we’re here and who we are.

It is through the escape of storytelling that we are able to understand ourselves and who we are as a community.

The beauty of art, dance, and music help us connect to the beauty in our everyday lives.

It was with this in mind that the Cultural Trust was founded 17 years ago. I am so proud that it is fulfilling the vision and mission of serving every single Oregonian.

According to an ECONorthwest Impact Report released earlier today, per capita funding by the Cultural Trust is actually at its highest in the most rural parts of Oregon, where funding sources are more scarce. The report calls the Cultural Trust’s geographic reach “remarkable.”

Through the generosity of Oregonians, the Cultural Trust has awarded more than $23 million in grants, while growing its permanent fund to more than $27 million. That’s also pretty remarkable, and a good investment in Oregon’s quality of life.

Now, it’s my pleasure and honor to introduce our guest of honor, Kim Stafford.

Kim is the founding director of the Northwest Writing Institute at Lewis & Clark College, where he has taught writing since 1979.

He is the author of a dozen books of poetry and prose, including A Thousand Friends of Rain: New & Selected Poems, which I think is a pretty fitting title for an Oregonian book.

He has taught writing in dozens of schools and community centers, and in Scotland, Italy, and Bhutan.
 
He attributes his success to the help of his family and his high school English teachers, Mrs. Pittman and Miss Scholastica Murty.

Kim says that with the help of rivers and forests and students and wise strangers of all kinds, he started writing and can't stop.
 
He finds writing poems to be an essential means of "settling his accounts" each day with fear and regret and uncertainty. His readiness for the challenge of modern life is restored by writing a dozen lines of thought.

I’m starting to see the appeal in writing poetry.
 
While he has taught in hundreds of classrooms and published a dozen books, for Kim, it's really about one fellow writer at a time, and one page at a time.
 
"On my tombstone," he has told his wife, "you might inscribe, he was easily pleased by a few words."

And now, my few words are done. Please join me in welcoming our new poet laureate, Kim Stafford.