Who are your favorite poets of the Piedmont? Perhaps one of the great poets who has gone before us, like the charming and brilliant Sam Ragan – newspaperman, raconteur, and host to writers who came to Weymouth to pursue their craft. Or our own shining star, Maya Angelou. Or Helen Smith Bevington, champion of light verse. Perhaps you resonate to the poems of North Carolina Poet Laureates past and present, such as Fred Chappell and Shelby Stephenson. Or you constantly reread the poetry of our first Piedmont Laureate, Jaki Shelton Green. Maybe you love one of our astonishing teachers, such as Gerald Barrax or Betty Adcock, Michael Chitwood or Alan Shapiro, Michael McFee or Dorianne Laux, James Seay or James Applewhite. Your favorite Piedmont poet could be a friend, acquaintance or stranger who has impressed you at a reading, or a relative whose lyric words astonish you and make you see the world differently. Perhaps, your favorite poet of the Piedmont is yourself.
The list I’ve offered is only a beginning. As Doris Betts once said, “You can’t throw a stone in the Triangle without hitting a writer.” I’m guessing there may be even more poets in our area now than there were when she first made that statement. There’s no way my brief list can even begin to cover all the poets I love here, much less the ones I haven’t even met yet, which is why I need your help.
In 1997, Robert Pinsky, the 39th Poet Laureate of the United States, created the Favorite Poem Project, in which he asked Americans to share the poems they loved most, and to give a brief explanation of why they’d chosen their poems.
This is our version of the Favorite Poem Project, for those of us who live in the heart of North Carolina, and for those who live beyond, but know the richness of our poetry. What better time in history to look for inspiration, for words that can carry us through and inspire us to be the people we want to be?
We want to hear about this poet whose work wakes you up in the morning, lets you sleep at night, eases you through the rough times and manages to capture that thing you’ve always felt but never known how to say.
And in particular, we want to know your favorite poem from these poets, so we can create an online catalogue of great poems to share throughout the Piedmont. What makes this your favorite Piedmont poem? Why do you want to share it with the world?
You can share your poem any way you like—write a comment on this blog post, or on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/piedmontlaureate/ or email me at piedmontlaureate2017 at gmail.com. I’ll collect your poems and let you know later in the year about the different ways we’ll get to share them with our community. The more poems, we get, the richer and more comprehensive our collection will be. Just send me a link to the poem and your thoughts on why this poem matters. If the poem isn’t online, send the entire poem, and we’ll make sure it’s available to the world.
I look forward to hearing from you – revisiting poems that I’ve loved over the years and discovering new ones and sharing them with readers of poetry everywhere.