As with a forest’s understory—the level of vegetation growing under its canopy—these poems bear the shadows of a darker realm. Informed by myth and archetype, Paulann Petersen’s work grows close to the earth, frequently delving into the chthonic. Occasioned by a wide geography and characterized by a large embrace, Petersen’s work celebrates both the singular and the quotidian, both the sidereal and the earth-bound—including poems for her furrier grandfather, for a revered poet’s first spoken word, for Hinduism’s sensuality, for a star-map painted on deer hide. Here a reader encounters a voice steeped in the music of the English language, a voice intent on the musical possibilities of poetry’s open and nonce forms. In these pages, a reader finds a voice indebted to the power of metaphor—the capacity of metaphor to transform both language itself and the way we humans see this world. Understory is the sixth full-length collection of poems from Petersen, who is Oregon’s sixth Poet Laureate.
All poets draw on myth. In many of her poems, Paulann Petersen writes myth itself—stories and seeings so true you look again and again, and they’re truer.
—John Daniel, author of Of Earth
The poems of Paulann Petersen brim with the brilliance of discovery. She ventures into the recesses of memory; she explores the complexity of nature and human nature; she brings forth the exquisite, lyrical yield. Hers is a poetry of revelation and wonder.
—Lawson Inada, Oregon Poet Laureate Emeritus
About the Author
Oregon’s sixth Poet Laureate, Paulann Petersen has five full-length books of poetry: The Wild Awake, Blood-Silk, A Bride of Narrow Escape, Kindle, and The Voluptuary. Her most recent chapbook is Shimmer and Drone, poems about India. She was a Stegner Fellow at Stanford University, and the recipient of the 2006 Holbrook Award from Oregon Literary Arts. Petersen serves on the board of Friends of William Stafford, organizing the January Stafford Birthday Events.
Program: Oregon Art Beat
Episode: Poet Laureate, Paulann Petersen
Oregon is the one of the few states in the US with a Governor-appointed Poet Laureate. The latest in this long line of distinguished writers is Paulann Petersen. Join Paulann as she travels the state teaching and helping people discover the wonder of the written word.
Be a leaf, learn
to eat with your skin,
swallowing sun’s rankness
wherever it strikes you.
Savor light, that mother
to every sweetness.
Become the bee’s green sister,
the one who can taste
this world with her hands.
Copyright © 2013 by Paulann Petersen