Monday, February 28, 2011

Monday Muse: Oregon's Poet Laureate

Poetry is not the domain of just a few. It's as natural
and accessible as heartbeat and breath. Writing poetry
requires nothing more than a love of words and 
a willingness to let your pen move across a page, 
following language wherever it takes you.
~ Paulann Petersen*

Paulann Petersen is Oregon's current, and sixth, Poet Laureate. Appointed in April 2010, she succeeded Lawson Fusao Inada, about whom I wrote here. (Please see the post on Inada for background on the state poet position, including predecessors, as well as some related poetry resources.)

Petersen's appointment is a two-year term. One of her proposed projects as Poet Laureate is to conduct creative writing workshops for teachers in which "springboards" (words or phrases) are used to help writing flow from the imagination, memories, and experiences. 

* * * * *
Poetry is the domain of each and every one
of us. It's ours to read, ours to write.*

Oregon-born Paulann Petersen published her first poem in 1975, in the Sunday Oregonian. Since then, she has published five full-length poetry collections, including, most recently, The Voluptuary (Lost Horse Press, 2010), Kindle (Mountains and Rivers Press, 2008), A Bride of Narrow Escape (Cloudbank Books, 2005), which Petersen has called her "most autobiographical", and Blood-Silk (Quiet Lion Press, 2004). Her first  published collection was The Wild Awake (Confluence Press, 2002; available here). In addition she has issued four chapbooks, including The Hermaprodite Flower (Lewis & Clark College, Watzek Library Special Collections, 2005).

Petersen has collaborated with artist-printmaker Barbara Mason to produce a series of 12 original Solarplate intaglio prints, "Bilingual Light", images of which may be seen here. She also has worked with artist Cristina Acosta, who created monotypes and "ghost images" in response to Petersen's poems (information about that collaboration is here). Artist Marilyn Maricle created the illustrations for Petersen's Blood Silk.

I'd like to think that every good poem I've ever read
or heard has moved me enough to be an influence
on my life. What is a poem if not something
to break open that "frozen sea within us"?**

Drawing deeply on her life in and travels throughout Oregon, Petersen makes nature a primary subject or focus in her poetry. As poet Marianne Klekacz has described her, Petersen "paints landscapes — physical, psychological and spiritual. She offers up the world for us to see as she sees it, full of surprise and wonder and praise".*** Petersen's other themes encompass discovery, attentiveness (especially to the mundane and seemingly unimportant), love and relationships, illness and death, and rural life. Petersen's style is precise, her imagery evocative, her language unfussy and lyrical. She gives us profundity in simplicity. 

Here are excerpts that I think underscore the joy in and celebration of life found in Petersen's poetry:

[. . .]
Fine as any line-up of suns
a night sky could flaunt,
this dipper deepens.
My drinking gourd shines.
~ From "Silver & Deep" in The Voluptuary

[. . .]
In your wake
the world unfolds
its rapture, the fruit
of its blooming.
Rooms in your house
fill with that sweetness
your body both
makes and eats.
~ From "A Sacrament" in A Bride of Narrow Escape

[. . .]
The anywhere-skin's
touch comes out of the heart

and its endlessly-soon-to-be-ended
beating. A hand's stroke, its hold,
are the blood's tingle, its recognition
of hard, succulent, world.
Unhinged and hinged, the bending.
Every hand. Its one wild heart.
~ From "Span"

Poems by Petersen have appeared in many literary magazines and journals, including Calyx, CLR Clackamas Literary ReviewNotre Dame Review, Poetry, Poetry Northwest, Prairie Schooner, and The New Republic. Her work also has appeared in such anthologies as Contemporary Northwest PoetsFrom Here We Speak: An Anthology of Oregon Poetry, and Beyond Forgetting: Poetry and Prose About Alzheimer's Disease, as well as within Portland's Tri-met public transportation system as part of Poetry in Motion.

The recipient of a Stanford University Wallace Stegner Fellowship, Petersen also has been honored with the Stewart H. Holbrook Literacy Legacy Award for Outstanding Contributions to Oregon's Literary Life (2006) and two Carolyn Kizer awards in poetry (1989 and 1997).  Petersen, who has studied with poets Adrienne Rich and Grace Paley, also has been nominated several times for a Pushcart Prize and in 2006 was a finalist for an Oregon Book Award in poetry (for A Bride of Narrow Escape).

A member of the board of the Friends of William Stafford (she knew Stafford personally and credits him with influencing how she lives her life), Petersen conducts many, many high school and college/university workshops, participates in in-teaching sessions for writers' organizations, judges poetry contests, and gives scores of poetry readings around Oregon, in other states, and abroad. She also collaborates on performances of her poems; see, for example, the video "Flash Choir Sings Paulann Petersen's 'Thirst'".


Photo Credit: Sabina Samiee

All Poetry Excerpts © Paulann Petersen

* Quoted in "Poets to Know: An Interview with Paulann Petersen", Writing the Life Poetic, May 22, 2009

** Quoted in Chris Faatz Interview with Paulann Petersen, Powell's Books, April 20, 2007 (In this interview, Petersen also speaks of influences on her poetry, and life, her experience being published by small presses, and her love of Turkish poet Nazim Hikmet. Petersen's Blood Silk is her "love song" to Turkey, a country to which she has traveled a number of times.) Note: At least three of Petersen's books are available through Powell's.

*** Quoted in Paulann Petersen Profile at Oregon Arts Commission

Appearance Schedule for Paulann Petersen

Sean Patrick Hill, "Sellwood Poet Paulann Petersen Publishes New Collection", The Bee, September 3, 2008; updated October 30, 2009 (This article notes Petersen's affinity for short poems and what the Japanese call, delightfully, "palm-of-the-hand stories". Of poetry, Petersen says it is "that miracle that appears in our lives. I think a poem speaks to what is most human in us.")

Dave Jarecki Interview with Paulann Petersen, February 13, 2009

Interview with Paulann Petersen at The Grove Review, Vol. 3, No. 1, 2010 (This excerpt is interesting for the background it gives on Petersen, including her earliest memory of the written word, her exposure to books and art, and the element of sound in her work.)

Interview with Paulann Petersen at Think Out Loud, Oregon Public Broadcasting, June 8, 2010

Oregonian Editorial Board, "One Portlander, Many Pens: The Gentle Provocations of Oregon's New Poet Laureate", April 30, 2010; updated May 1, 2010

Paulann Petersen Profile at Oregon Poet Laureate

Paulann Petersen Poetry Online:  Selections of poetry from Petersen's collections are here. Also see: "Miracle" at Your Daily Poem; "A Sacrament" at Writing the Life Poetic; "Appetite" at Poetry Foundation; "Finish", "A Sacrament", "Primed", and "Appetite", All at CounterPunch; "Span", "Ark", and "Hive", All at Poetserv; "Bloodline", "A Sacrament", "Miracle", and "Appetite", All at Poetry.Us; "Love Spells", "Wildcraft", and "Merman", All at Weber Journal; "Lullaby" at Literary Arts; "Voluptuaries", "Nor Physiology Alone", "Great or Small", and "Again, the Hand, Where Mind and Body Join", All at Weber: The Contemporary West; "Thirst" at Literary Arts; "Ecumenical" at Poetserv; "Traveler" and "Basin" at DaveJarecki; "A Sacrament" at Scrawlings; "Four of the Stargazers", "To a Small, Sweet Calimyrna Fig", and "During a Solar Eclipse", All At Weber: The Contemporary West; "Song for the one who waits in the Forest" at Poet Speak; "Work" in Wild Song: Poems of the Natural World; "Lullaby" at Poetry Society of America; "Thirst" at Canary; "A Little Perspective", "Traveler", "As Fall Days Continue Their Onward Count", "A Taming", and "Feral", All at at DaveJarecki; "Sacrament" (text + audio) at Whatcom Poetry Series; "Under the Sign of a Neon Wolf" at Beloit Poetry Journal

Paula Petersen on FaceBook

Oregon Poet Laureate on FaceBook and Twitter

Oregon Poetic Voices

Oregon Poetry

Oregon Page at (Academy of American Poets)

Following are Parts 1 and 2 of the Talking Through Us documentary with Paulann Petersen. In each she reads her poetry. The documentary was produced in December 2010.


Louise Gallagher said...

following the pen whereever it may take you...

how lovely!

wouldn't it be fun to have a Poets laureate convention!!!!

S. Etole said...

You've shown us such a variety of poets ... thank you.

Joyce Wycoff said...

I love her democratic approach to poetry. Thanks for sharing.

Anonymous said...

i go following a link and it takes me awhile to come back and tell you how much i'm enjoying it all.

Maureen said...

Louise, the PLs do get together. A group of them are meeting in Lawrence, Kansas, March 13-14.

Thank you, Susan. I appreciate you reading so many of the PL posts.

Joyceann, you're welcome. I think Petersen seems natural and down-to-earth. She's written some wonderful poetry, too!

Nance, I know what you mean! I do that all the time.

Kathleen Overby said...

I Pauline was thoroughly showcased here. I have to go learn about intaglio and broadsides now. !Google!

The quotes you picked and the poems were tantalizing.

She's close enough that we could be getting rained on by the same (recycled) rain. Touch me....?

Being showcased by you must feel marvelous to these artists extraordinaire. Nicely framed, Maureen.

Maureen said...

Thank you, Kathleen. You'll enjoy learning about intaglio and broadsides. Let me know if you want a few sites to explore.

I have one more profile next week, then a post on the states without PLs, plus states where the arts are getting axed. Then on to another project while also keeping up to date with changes as PLs' terms end.

drew said...

Wow - Your research is impressive!

This is packed with great info and backstory. Thanks for pulling together all this information. And I so grateful to live in Oregon, a state that values its poets and poetry.

Thanks Maureen.