At our meeting on November 30, 2011, the Portland City Council recognized Oregon's sixth Poet Laureate, Paulann Petersen, for her dedication to the teaching of poetry and art, as well as her many contributions to Oregon's artistic landscape. Commissioner Leonard proposed the Resolution and gave the Council and cable viewers a rare treat. Ms. Petersen is both an award-winning poet and a dedicated member of the Oregon community. She has taught poetry workshops at multiple venues at libraries throughout the state, and also taught English at several Oregon high schools. Her work has appeared in dozens of publications. As part of her recognition by the Council, members of the community gave thoughtful testimony about Ms. Petersen's impact on their lives. Ms. Petersen also spoke about the honor. An excerpt from her speech:
"Last month, the Cultural trust celebrated its 9th birthday. Nine years of supporting arts and culture in every corner, valley, plateau, and hillside of this state. Nine years of being one of the most remarkable arts and culture support organizations in America's history.
Do you think that’s hyperbole? You think that’s exaggeration? Then let me counter with another question. How many other states in these United States of America have a Cultural Trust?
The answer is none. None. Zip. Zilch. Oregon is the one and only. Our Cultural trust is unique.
For Oregon Cultural Trust, for Chris D’Arcy, for Commissioner Nick Fish and every other OCT board member, I am grateful.
I begin with praise and gratitude for Oregon Humanities, for Cara Ungar-Gutierrez, for Kristy Athens who serves as the liaison between the public and the Oregon Poet Laureate - maintaining an OPL web site, relaying requests to me.
For Oregon Humanities, for Cara, for Kristy, I am grateful.
I begin yet again with gratitude for - and at this point you might reasonably ask how in the world I can say I’m beginning in yet another place, how can I possibly have so many starting spots?
How? Because this gathering here today, this Resolution, is a consequence of community.
Community: something with many beginnings, many starting places.
A consequence of community. Of joined forces, shared passions, mutual dreams. This resolution may say 'Oregon Poet Laureate Paulann Petersen Day,' but it’s about confluence, about community. The result of the efforts of many."
After hearing Ms. Petersen's speech, and the praise from her many supporters, I commented something like:
Words in this chamber are often used to express discontent, and sometimes even seem to be intended to inflict hurt. Today we heard Paulann Petersen demonstrate the beauty of words, and why she is described as 'a journeywoman who teaches the art of listening.' She is also a woman of action - working hard all over the state. Some people might consider the Poet Laureate job to be a meaningless title to pack a resume. Paulann Petersen takes the job seriously and has provided service all over the state.
I also acknowledge Mrs. Dorothy Hope Stratford, wife of the late Poet Laureate William Stafford, who by her action being here today warms my heart and gives me courage. Mrs. Stafford was so kind to me in my campaign in 2008, and I feel blessed that she is here in Council chambers encouraging us all by her presence.
I appreciate Paulann's reminder that the word "Commissioner" is indeed a sturdy, reassuring word, and indeed it comes with both obligations and with opportunities. As Commissioner Leonard has shown, we have the opportunity to celebrate some of our great citizens. Thank you so much for all you do, Paulann.