From long-acclaimed literary figures to rising stars in the field, here are 10 North Carolina poets who offer new perspectives on our world and everyday life.
by Sarah Goddin and Mamie Potter
The old adage “poetry is all around us” reigns particularly true in North Carolina. From the acclaimed poet laureates of the state to young, rising scribes, these North Carolina poets offer a unique lens to view the world around us through their gorgeous, soulful words — and remind us of ways to find beauty in the everyday.
Betty Adcock inspired many young women at Meredith College during her time as a professor there. She has received two Pushcart Prizes, a Guggenheim Fellowship, the NC Medal for Literature and many more awards and accolades. We were very moved by her collection, Widow Poems, published after the death of her husband, Don.
Tyree Daye is a graduate of the MFA program at NCSU and is presently a teaching assistant at UNC-CH. He is a Cave Canem Fellow and was awarded a Whiting Writers Award. His poem, No Ghost Abandoned, evokes images of family gatherings haunted by those who are missing and will give you a glimpse into his atmospheric poetry and his southern soul.
Jaki Shelton Green
North Carolina Poet Laureate Jaki Shelton Green is the first African American to be appointed to the position. She teaches at Duke University’s Center for Documentary Studies. She contributes in so many ways to the betterment of diverse groups of people through her advocacy, classes, and creativity coaching. Her organization, SistaWrite, has touched the lives of many women, and was set up to answer her question: How can I influence and celebrate the voices of women?
What on earth would we do without our beloved NC poet Fred Chappell? We have laughed and cried while reading his poetry collections and novels. The ultimate chronicler of Southern culture, Chappell has won many awards for his work, including the T. S. Eliot Prize and an award from the National Academy of Arts and Letters. One of our favorites of his collections is Family Gathering. We’re pretty sure some of his friends and family recognize themselves in this one!
Lenard D. Moore
Lenard D. Moore is a frequent sight at Quail Ridge Books. When he’s not reading or shopping, he’s there in support of other poets doing events. Celebrated for his haiku poems in their many three-line variations, he was the first Southerner and the first African American to be elected president of the Haiku Society of America. His haiku about his daughter, who was killed in an automobile accident, demonstrates the way he infuses a small number of words with a volume of emotion.
Eduardo Corral is another poet trailblazer, becoming the first Latino recipient of the Yale Younger Series Poets award for his collection, Slow Lightning. We’re fortunate to have Corral in the English Department at NC State University. Corral is the son of Mexican immigrants, and in poems like The Border Patrol, we see the literal and figurative ways he straddles the boundary between the US and Mexico. We predict that his latest volume, Guillotine, will win more rewards!
Appalachian State University professor Joseph Bathanti is one of our NC treasures. He came to the state to work with inmates as a VISTA volunteer and, lucky for us, ended up staying! Over the years, Bathanti has led hundreds of classes on writing and poetry in prisons. He was the Poet Laureate of NC, and he took the job very seriously, spending a huge amount of his time going into schools and leading workshops. We are looking forward to his upcoming collection, Light at the Seam, which will be published in 2022.
We’ve been in the room when Shelby Stephenson starts to read one of his poems, and it’s clear that he commands great respect. He was inducted into the North Carolina Hall of Fame at the same time as Adcock and Green and has also served as North Carolina Poet Laureate. Born right down the road in Johnson County, Shelby embodies the gentleman poet with deep roots in the South. He reads his work with a hint of a smile, his melodic voice and that smile a perfect accompaniment to his writing.
NCSU Professor Emeritus John Balaban has drawn heavily on his experience as a university teacher in Vietnam for his poems and his memoir, Remembering Heaven’s Face. He has been instrumental in the preservation of a form of Vietnamese folk poetry known as ca dao. He was twice nominated for the National Book Award. His newest collection, Empires, draws on history for inspiration, and possibly, healing from the traumas of the past.
Dannye Romine Powell
Award-winning Charlotte resident Dannye Romine Powell’s poetry has appeared in The Paris Review, Ploughshares, and other prestigious literary publications. She was the book editor of The Charlotte Observer for many years, and the collection of her interviews with well-known writers, Parting the Curtains, is a real gem. Her most recent collection of poetry, In the Sunroom with Raymond Carver, reminds us that poets spin difficult thoughts into beautiful verse.