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Former Oregon Poet Laureate Peter Sears Dies At 80


Poet Peter Sears has died. He served as Oregon’s Poet Laureate from 2014 to 2016 and was active in the state’s literary community for more than 40 years.

While Sears carried a folder everywhere, to jot down poems in progress, he called teaching and working with other poets a huge part of his life.

While Sears carried a folder everywhere, to jot down poems in progress, he called teaching and working with other poets a huge part of his life.

Oregon Arts Commission

He told OPB’s “Think Out Loud” in 2014, he walked a line between describing the world and writing things of his own invention. 

“Of all the wonderful human values we hear about, drive, resolve, insight, charm empathy, whatever — we don’t hear much about imagination and we live there a lot more than we know,” Sears said.

“If a person has an opportunity to engage imagination, as they do in writing, things can happen that they never saw coming,” Sears said.

When Sears became Oregon’s seventh poet laureate, he talked about the central importance of reading for poets and how much he enjoyed sharing the state with other writers. He said his preference was to hear people creating works in their native languages, even if — and perhaps especially if — those languages did not include English.

“It’s a major Oregon value: representing people from different communities.”

Sears came to Oregon in 1974. He was born in New York and graduated from Yale and the Iowa Writers’ Workshop. He lived most recently in Corvallis, but in earlier years split his time between Corvallis and Portland. Published notices indicate Sears died last Thursday at his home. He was 80 years old.  

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