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Oregon Gov. Kate Brown Names Elizabeth Woody State's Next Poet Laureate


Elizabeth Woody, Oregon’s next poet laureate, will assume the role at the end of April 2016.

Elizabeth Woody, Oregon’s next poet laureate, will assume the role at the end of April 2016.

Courtesy of Oregon Cultural Trust

Oregon Gov. Kate Brown has named Elizabeth Woody as the state’s next poet laureate.

A recipient of the American Book Award and the William Stafford Memorial Award for Poetry, Woody is also a painter, photographer and basket weaver. Her work often mixes poetry with visual art. Woody has also helped nurture other writers as a professor and as a founder of Soapstone, an organization that supports women writers.

“The energy of Elizabeth Woody’s words bring to life the landscapes, creatures and people who make Oregon special,” Brown said in a news release. “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.”

Born on the Navajo Nation reservation in Ganado, Arizona, Woody has lived in Oregon for most of her life and is a member of the Warm Springs tribe.

She says her writing reflects the many languages she heard growing up, and the conversations she had with her Warm Springs grandmother.

“When she spoke to me, it was very brief, but it was very poetic, and it was very powerful,” Woody said. “A friend of mine said, ‘Your grandmother can say anything important in five words or less.’”

As poet laureate, she plans to give readings in nine of Oregon’s native communities and the border towns near them. Woody said Madras, Pendleton, Klamath Falls and Newport are all places she hopes to speak.

The state’s eighth poet laureate since 1921, Woody will assume her role in April. She succeeds Peter Sears, who took on the role in 2014.

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