Before the holidays, I was invited by OUR STATE, N.C.'s beautiful monthly magazine, to write a short piece on the topic "Why We Love North Carolina." I would be joining other North Carolinians in this feature, including Jan Karon, Bob Timberlake, Sharyn McCrumb, Fred Chappell, and David Holt. A pretty big topic! And wide open for schmaltz and cliched writing, if I weren't careful. Where to begin? I looked up and saw an old photo over my my desk, taken while I was working on poetry-writing with my daughter's second grade class. All those young faces bent over their sheets of paper! That's it, I thought. That's MY topic.
The February OUR STATE is now on the magazine shelves. So, here is how my little essay turned out.
Being North Carolina's Poet Laureate for the past three years has given me plenty to love. Our generous community of writers, for starters. The writers themselves who continue to amaze me with their talent and energy. Those folks who come up to me after a reading to say they didn’t think they liked poetry but now maybe they would give it a try! What I've come to love most, however, are the students I've met in our schools, especially the ones in K-8. This love affair began in 1986, when I visited my daughter’s kindergarten class at what was then Camp Lab School in Cullowhee. We talked about pets and I jotted down their stories. I asked one little girl if her hound-dog was spotted. No, she declared. “He’s all the way white.” I wanted to hug her.
In the years that followed I visited nearly every class in which my daughter sat. Little did I know that I was rehearsing for my laureate role! Imagine an auditorium at Iron Station Elementary School filled with k-2 students sitting cross-legged on the floor, chirping like birds, while I stood there, wondering how to begin! We talked about pets again (always a dependable subject), I read a poem or two, and as they filed out, they wanted to touch my cowboy boots and the laurel crown I had been given the day before at East Alexander Middle School. That’s where, after my reading in the gym, the students rushed me, wanting my autograph, as if I were a rock star! And how can I ever forget the students at N. Canton Elementary, again sitting at my feet, one of whom, a little girl wearing sequined shoes, asked if she could grow up to be poet laureate. (See photo above; she's in the middle!) Oh, and there were the enthusiastic 4th graders at Greenfield School and St. Therese’s in Wilson, eager to talk about haiku and Milky Way cake! What I love most about this state are these young faces looking back at me, ready to say who they are. May we all listen well to them.
Causes Kathryn Byer Supports
Any environmental causes to keep our Southern mountains and our planet from devastation. Conservation Trust of North Carolina Nature Conservancy ADC,com...