Remembering Peter Sears

Sika Stanton

We were saddened to learn of the death of former Oregon Poet Laureate Peter Sears, who passed away July 20 at his home in Corvallis. Sears was beloved both as a writer and as a teach of writing. He moved to Oregon in 1974 to teach at Reed College and served in teaching and administrative roles at Bard College and Pacific University. He is the author of four full-length poetry collections and several chapbooks, along with books on teaching creative writing. He was a founding director of the Oregon Literary Coalition and cofounder of Cloudbank Books.

Sears served as Oregon Poet Laureate from 2014 to 2016, making more than sixty public appearances in communities all over Oregon. He was the state's seventh poet laureate and the third writer to hold the position since it was revived in 2006. During his tenure, he focused on what he called "expanding voices," often sharing the stage with poets working in languages other than English. (Oregon Humanities coordinates the Oregon Poet Laureate program.)

"I write poems because I need art in order to seek full expression," Sears said in a 2010 interview with the Oregonian. "The effort is exciting. I am really fully engaged only when I am working on a poem."

Sears reads his poem "Bad Day" in the video below, filmed in 2015 by Sika Stanton


5 comments have been posted.

Peter helped me see myself as a poet, which inspired me to show that same inclusive sensibility when talking to other poets and writers. May his love for poetry endure.

Eric Wayne Dickey | August 2017 | Corvallis, Oregon

AT THE CAFÉ For Peter Sears My teacher--a great poet--drinks coffee on the other side of the window pane. He brings a ceramic cup to his mouth, then puts it down. He writes comments on my poem. A red wooden table. A plastic pink poodle wearing sunglasses and a black lace cape. The teacher’s hand and the poem are reflected hanging in mid-air. A ceramic Popeye rides in a baby carriage and carries a pot of spinach. The woman across from me talks into a cell phone. A slice of sunlight covers her hand. A piece of spinach dangles from her fork. A Chinese fortune is glued onto my tabletop. All I can read is, Wow, I wish about…

Elaine Nussbaum | August 2017 | Scappoose, Oregon

Peter was a wonderful teacher, funny but never hesitant to tell you frankly when what you wrote wasn't working and needed to be entirely redone. It was a pleasure to learn from him. I've been re-reading his work, noticing how many of his poems deal with death, sometimes with great humor. But the poem I've put in the poetry box to celebrate him, "Instructions to Myself," seems to be a more subtle rumination about facing our own mortality. Or maybe it's just about rowing a boat at night, and Peter would call me out on being too sentimental in reading anything else into it. How we shall miss him!

Lois Leveen | August 2017 | Portland, OR

Peter was a funny, caustic, dead-eyed reader of poetry, and I learned a great, great deal from him. May he rest in peace, Chris Anderson July 2017

Chris Anderson | July 2017 | Oregon State University

Peter brought Oregon writers together when he worked at the Oregon Arts Commission, and later as Poet Laureate, with unique humor, wit, and deep intelligence. He brought the best of the East Coast literary sensibility to the more relaxed West Coast scene, and always added a note of festive wisdom and fervent inclusion when writers and readers gathered. That spirit will be with us still. Kim Stafford

Kim Stafford | July 2017 |

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