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Gov. Brown names Elizabeth Woody Oregon's eighth Poet Laureate

Oregon Arts Commission

Governor Kate Brown has named Elizabeth Woody of Warm Springs and Portland to a two-year appointment as Poet Laureate of Oregon.

Woody will be Oregon’s eighth poet laureate since 1921. She succeeds Peter Sears, who has held the post since 2014.SUBMITTED PHOTO - Elizabeth Woody

“The energy of Elizabeth Woody’s words bring to life the landscapes, creatures and people who make Oregon special,” Gov. Brown said. “As Poet Laureate, she will be a great asset to our state, using vivid storytelling to help us understand who we are as a larger community.”

Woody was born on the Navajo Nation reservation in Ganado, Arizona, but has made her home in Oregon for most of her life. An enrolled member of the Confederated Tribes of Warm Springs, she has published poetry, short fiction and essays, and also is a visual artist. “Hand Into Stone,” her first book of poetry, received a 1990 American Book Award. In 1994 she published “Luminaries of the Humble (University of Arizona Press)” and “Seven Hands, Seven Hearts” (The Eighth Mountain Press). “It was a real pleasure to watch the selection committee coalesce around the recommendation of Elizabeth Woody as Oregon’s eighth Poet Laureate,” said Adam Davis, executive director of Oregon Humanities, who administers the Poet Laureate program on behalf of the Cultural Trust. “Committee members from all parts of the state pointed to the power of Elizabeth’s poetry, the energy and dignity she would bring to the position, and the resonance of her voice,” Davis added. “Her love of this place should find a perfect outlet in the position of Poet Laureate, and the position of Poet Laureate will be honored by having her in the role.” Woody received the William Stafford Memorial Award for Poetry from the Pacific Northwest Bookseller’s Association in 1995 and was a finalist in the poetry category for the Oregon Book Awards for 1994. She is an alumna of the first Kellogg Foundation’s Fellowship through the AIO Ambassadors program, and was selected for the J.T. Stewart Fellowship from Hedgebrook. She has taught writing workshops and has lectured throughout the country. From 1994 to 1996, Woody was a professor of creative writing at the Institute of American Indian Arts (IAIA) in Santa Fe, New Mexico.

“The power of language in poetry, song, story and legacy has kept Oregon’s communities vibrant,” said Woody. “The literature of this land is the sound of multiple hearts and the breath of many listened to while forming as individuals in this world. It is an honor to be Oregon’s poet to serve our state’s communities in the next two years and reflect upon their strength.”

Woody attended the IAIA and later earned a bachelor’s degree in humanities with an emphasis in English from Evergreen State College in Olympia, Washington. In 2012 she received a master of public administration degree through the Executive Leadership Institute of the Mark O. Hatfield School of Government at Portland State University. She was a founding board member of Soapstone, Inc., an organization dedicated to supporting women writers. She also was a founding board member of the Native Arts and Cultures Foundation, a national organization headquartered in Vancouver, Washington. She served as a program officer for the Meyer Memorial Trust from 2012 to 2015.

The Oregon Poet Laureate fosters the art of poetry, encourages literacy and learning, addresses central issues relating to humanities and heritage, and reflects on public life in Oregon. Woody will provide at least six and up to 20 public readings per year in settings across the state to educate community, business and state leaders about the value and importance of poetry and creative expression.

A 20-person committee of writers, poets and cultural leaders reviewed nominations in February and made its recommendation to the Cultural Trust and its statewide partners: Oregon Arts Commission, Oregon Historical Society, the Oregon Heritage Commission, Oregon Humanities and the State Historic Preservation Office.

The Governor approved the committee’s recommendation last week. Past Oregon Poets Laureate were Edwin Charles Markham (1921-1940), Ben Hur Lampman (1951-1954), Ethel Romig Fuller (1957-1965), William Stafford (1974-1989), Lawson Inada (2006-2010) and Paulann Petersen (2010-2014).

Woody will assume the Poet Laureate role the last week of April. A public ceremony to welcome her and thank Sears will be announced soon.