Oregon Poet Laureates

Oregon's poet laureates: A sample of their work, a bit about their lives

Published: Monday, May 10, 2010, 4:46 AM     Updated: Monday, May 10, 2010, 3:15 PM


 

Paulann Petersen, a Portland poet, teacher and literary salon keeper, became Oregon's sixth poet laureate last month, appointed by Gov. Ted Kulongoski. She'll serve a two-year renewable term and receive $10,000 a year. 

When Oregon picked its first poet laureate 87 years ago, the post was unofficial, the pay nonexistent and the tenure lifetime. Since then, the title has been on-again, off-again. Even after the Legislature made it official in 1989, calling on the governor to honor a resident poet who has captured "the beauty and spirit of the state through the medium of verse," no laureate took office until 2006. 

So who were Petersen's predecessor laureates? They include just one Oregon native -- and he left the state at age 5. Also a writer named "Ben Hur" who was better known for his essays and short stories than his poems. A transplant from the Midwest who made her reputation in part by reading poems on the radio. A conscientious objector in World War II. And a Japanese American who lived as a young child in detention camps during that war.