Pioneers in Poetry: North Carolina’s Poet Laureate

For the last two weeks, we have focused on the great state of South Carolina and its top poetic representative. But what about its neighbor to the north? North Carolina has, as a matter of fact, just recently announced that it has selected a new poet laureate: Shelby Stephenson. Read on to learn more about the latest addition to the nationwide family of state poet laureates!

north-carolina-poet-laureate Shelby Stephenson Named North Carolina Poet Laureate by Governor McCrory

 Though he is now best known for being a poet and academic figure in North Carolina, Shelby Stephenson has quite the diverse work background. While a college student, he worked as a busboy, janitor, and DJ; after obtaining his degree he went on to study law and worked as a TV announcer and salesman at various points in his life. But his main interest, despite this jack-of-all-trades reputation, remained writing. He taught creative writing and literature at the University of North Carolina at Pembroke after his tenure as chair of the English department at Campbell College came to an end in 1978.

 Awards and Recognition

 Decades of experience led to high-level recognition for his work; Stephenson has received numerous awards honoring his poetry, including the Bellday Poetry Prize and the Brockman-Campbell Book Award. He also received the highest civilian honor in the state in 2001: the North Carolina Award for literature.

 Drawing on Childhood Experience for Poetic Inspiration

 The poems that Stephenson writes speak most often about his childhood memories and growing up in rural North Carolina. Many writers find that their childhoods provide them with many stories to tell- what about you? Our childhood memories are some of our strongest and most formative ones, and as such they are full of potential for poetry. Think back on your own childhood: was there a close friendship you shared with a neighbor? A favorite spot you would visit on summer days? A street you would walk down? A shop you would visit? Any and all of these could be the basis of a beautiful poem about your childhood; take a page out of Shelby Stephenson’s book and try writing a piece yourself! If you like what you write, consider submitting it to our poetry contest and show your work to the world!

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