I’m delighted to launch into my year as the 2017 North Carolina Piedmont Laureate. The year began for me on New Year’s Eve, with this great article by David Menconi in The News & Observer.
A week later, we were graced here in the Piedmont with a snowfall, so I took advantage of the snow days to write some poetry and do a little skiing around my neighborhood—always an inspiration.
On Tuesday, January 10th, with snow still on the ground, Katy Munger, the 2016 Piedmont Laureate in Mystery Writing officially crowned me the 2017 Piedmont Laureate at the North Carolina Museum of Art.
I know a few of you weren’t able to slog through the snow, so I thought I’d share with you some of the remarks I composed for the occasion, so you can get a sense of me and what I’m planning for the year.
I appreciate the great work done by the City of Raleigh Arts Commission, the Durham Arts Council, the Orange County Arts Commission and the United Arts Council in creating and sustaining the Piedmont Laureateship.
I was born in Orange County—Orange County California, that is. But my family moved to Raleigh when I was eight months old, then later to Chapel Hill, and for the last 28 years I’ve lived in Durham. My father was born and raised in Winston-Salem, and was a pediatrician in Raleigh for many years. I went to Carolina with Michael Jordan, earned my degree in creative writing from there, and got my Masters in Fine Arts from Warren Wilson. I have called the Piedmont home for all of my talking, walking and poetry-writing life. This is the landscape I know. These are the people I cherish.
“How can I know what I mean until I see what I say?” E. M. Forster once said. I believe we can do this best by writing poetry. Write a draft. See what you’re trying to say to yourself. Play with the sound and language of it. Say it better, so it’s not just you talking to yourself, but you sharing what’s in your head and heart with other people in a way that inspires them to say, “That’s exactly what I felt. I just hadn’t figured out how to say it.
In the animated film, Ratatouille, the great chef Auguste Gusteau says, “Anyone can cook.” I believe anyone can write. My goal this year as Piedmont Laureate is to create opportunities for people to do that: for experienced poets to hone and share their craft, and for new writers to discover their voices. I plan to provide occasions for older people to share the stories of their lives and for younger people to imagine theirs—all through poetry. And for those of us in the middle (and my father used to say, “Middle age is ten years older than whatever you happen to be right now,” so I think I can safely say that most of us are in the middle!), maybe we can use poetry to help us understand our own lives a little better.
In the interest of time [and to leave you with something to look forward to in future blog posts], I won’t tell you about all I have planned for the year, but I did want to mention one of my favorites: poetry nap workshops in stressful workplaces.
Each of us has a distinctive voice. This year, I invite you to discover yours.
I’ll be offering all sorts of poetry events throughout Wake, Durham and Orange Counties, from workshops to readings to surprises I’ll reveal as the year progresses. I hope you’ll join me at one—or many—of these great events.