Jaki Shelton Green

2009 Piedmont Laureate, Poetry

My mission as a writer has always been to help amplify the stories, the truths, on paper… to help transform humanity one poem, one verse at a time. I believe that our collective missions can be manifested in my role as Piedmont Laureate.

jaki_shelton_greenJaki Shelton Green, 2009 Piedmont Laureate, has received a variety of awards and honors for her work, including the North Carolina Award for Literature (2003), Artist-in Residence at The Taller Portobelo Artist Colony (2006) in Panama, and the 2007 Sam Ragan Award.  Her poetry has appeared in publications such as The Crucible, The African-AmericanReview, Obsidian, Poets for Peace, Ms. Magazine, Essence Magazine, KAKALAK, Callaloo, Cave Canem African American Writers Anthology, and The Pedestal Magazine. 

Her publications (Carolina Wren Press) include Dead on Arrival, Dead on Arrival and New Poems, Masks, Conjure Blues, singing a tree into dance, Blue Opal (a play), and breath of the song (which was cited as one of the two Best Poetry Books of the Year by the Independent Weekly).  

Ms. Green has conducted workshops and presented readings throughout the U.S, Europe, the Caribbean Islands, Central and South America.  Additionally, her poetry has been choreographed by groups such as African American Dance Ensemble, Two Near the Edge, and the ChoreoCollective. Ms. Green holds a Master’s degree in Community Economic Development from the Development Training Institute, University of Maryland and maintains an independent consultancy specializing in nonprofit board training, arts and education, and the humanities.

In addition, she continues to teach creative writing to marginalized populations of our society including the homeless, incarcerated, and the writer-as-survivor.  She collaborates as a creativity coach with human service agencies and corporations using writing and creativity as tools of healing and transformation.  Her workshops, such as “Building Community through Poetry and the Arts” are available through the North Carolina Humanities Council Speaker’s Bureau.

Reflections

I applied to be the first Laureate because I am excited about utilizing the fervor akin to an evangelist to facilitate a “movement” that fosters a greater appreciation of the literary arts.  I believe that there are so many new creative voices in the Piedmont that we have not had the opportunity to hear.  During my tenure, it is my intention to identify and interface with the numerous community-based organizations that are engaged already with literary programs and hopefully collaborate on strengthening their efforts and assisting them with strategies that will enlarge and sustain their projects.  I also envision the Laureate’s role to assist emerging poets by creating programmatic venues and mentorship opportunities.  Most importantly, I will attempt to cultivate and extend my own passion for using written and spoken word as a vehicle for teaching, nurturing, and celebrating literature.

I write poetry because it allows me to explore my world in new ways…learning what I need, sharing what I know.
My poetry has become a very functional tool for digging and harvesting the stories that continue to rise to the surface over and over again.  It allows me to be spontaneous, playful, sometimes misbehaved, but also very disciplined.  I write poetry because it allows me to use stories, metaphors, analogies, humor, sometimes magic to communicate with my greater world by providing a multitude of voices, unexpected language, and presence that helps me to cross boundaries and borders in an effort to use poetry as a bridge for building community, healing, and celebration.

I believe that our communities, our world need more creativity, innovation, and tolerance.  By tapping into our collective creative expressions and practices I believe that the leadership, the mentoring, and the sharing has the potential to emerge and significantly make a difference as we discover the wisdom in sharing our stories, ideas, dreams.  By doing so, we create greater sustainable creative wealth in all of our communities.

As Piedmont Laureate I will serve diligently to facilitate meaningful activities and projects that expand and celebrate appreciation for the literary arts.