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Paulann Petersen on Nature Inside & Out

photo by Sabina SamieeServing as Oregon Poet Laureate from 2010 to 2014, Paulann Petersen logged nearly 28,000 miles as she crisscrossed the land giving readings and workshops in every nook and cranny of the state.

She is a retired high school teacher and has published six full-length books of poetry, most recently Understory. She serves on the board of Friends of William Stafford, organizing the annual Stafford Birthday events.

It’s been said that Paulann Petersen’s work “grows close to the earth.”

“The effect of landscape, homescape, on me is both deep and oblique,” she says. “Oregon is mountains, ocean, high desert, rain forest. It’s the hotsprings in Hart Mountain Antelope Refuge, the Church of Elvis in downtown Portland, pelicans on Klamath Lake, herons in Oaks Bottom in the Willamette. Oregon is abundance, variety vast and gorgeous. It teaches me inclusiveness and gratitude. Oregon encourages a wide embrace.”

Paulann Petersen offers three good books on the theme of nature inside & out:

The Klamath Knot, Explorations of Myth and Evolution
by David Rains Wallace

“A classic of natural history which will take its place alongside Walden and A Sand County Almanac,” said G. Ledyard Stebbins, renowned author and botanist. Klamath Knot offers a startling and transformative vision of the relationship between wilderness and human consciousness. Wallace’s fusion of science and imagination leaves me breathless.


The Anthropology of Turquoise: Reflections on Desert, Sea, Stone, and Sky
by Ellen Meloy

A Pulitzer finalist, this book about the history of color is a wonder. Ellen Meloy’s embrace encompasses nothing less than human imagination and the natural world. She’s a marvelously talented, beautifully insane, poetic natural history writer. A voice both ecstatic and exact.

Orpheus: The Song of Life
by Ann Wroe

This book goes onto my “best list” before I’ve even finished reading it — I’m only halfway through the book as I write this recommendation. Ann Wroe, superb mythographer, tells the story of Orpheus in poetic, precise prose. She tells how Orpheus — the first poet, the first musician, the “magician-singer of the ancient world” — is inextricably bound with the natural world. His lyre represents “all poets, all trees and the world itself when the divine wind plays.” The 13 consonants in his alphabet derive from 13 trees. A whiff of the “incense of spring” announces his presence. Right now, I want to buy dozens of copies of this book and give one to each lyric poet I know.

Reader Comments (1)

I made special note of your recommendation of Orpheus and that note is probably within arm's reach. But I haven't the faintest idea how to find it. I'm glad to have stumbled across it again.
Perhaps I have made up for its loss. I recently stumbled (yet again...much of my extra reading is accident-determined) upon the W.H.D.Rouse translation of The Odyssey. I have periodically felt flawed for not having waded through it. Now wading is not required and I find the story fascinating. In the same fashion I've wandered in Beowulf and Highet's Poets [latin] in a Landscape, and some books of the Bible. All that and more though my escape reading is mystery (mostly early 20th century and British) and my 'business' reading is related to poetry and poetry itself.
I would not expect you to remember me haunting your workshops as often as I could -- some were simply too far, and then I was seriously ill so ... And you generously sent me poems, cards, a broadside for which I thank you. Shirley Plummer

July 11, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterShirley A. Plummer

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