For five years I served as NC's first woman Poet Laureate, following the estimable and energetic Fred Chappell, a former teacher of mine, who turned the post into a vital one, rather than the figurehead it had become over the decades. Before Fred, the state's laureates served life terms. Now we have a--you guessed it-- committee to take nominations from anyone who wants to nominate a favorite poet. Last year I relinquished my laurels to Cathy Smith Bowers, a poet I've long admired. I'm attaching a photo from that event. Yes, Cathy has a real laurel wreath on her head. Fred placed one on mine, too, mountain laurel, as he said he liked to think of it. In the record-breaking heat of that June day, the florist had sprayed the leaves generously. The hairstyle I had worked on so passionately just 30 minutes before, curling and crimp, now lay flat on my laureled head. But why should a Laureate care about how her hair looks? I had a lot more on my mind that day, as I stood beside Fred, thinking how hard it was going to be to live up to the role he had set for future NC Laureates.
How to reach out to the state's large community of writers, stretching from the mountains to the Atlantic Ocean? How to reach my state's public school teachers, so burdened by now with test preparations and other mandates? How to convince their students that poetry could enrich their lives? That it was not something to be paraphrased, it was something to be lived and enjoyed? Finally, how to rise to the occasion of writing poems for librarians, conferences, events, and well---just about anybody who asked me for one?
I am beginning to read the posts telling me what I might have done during my tenure as Laureate. I'm enjoying the different ideas. Maybe I will steal some of them and use them in my new role as Poet Laureate Emerita! If you go to my Laureate blogspot (address on my redroom site) you will see some of what I tried to do. If you go to the North Carolina Arts Council site, you can visit the archive of my years as Laureate. If you go to my "Here, Where I Am" blog, you will see what I'm still trying to do. And oh yes, I've a new blog, www.themountainwoman.blogspot.com, where I celebrate mountain women's lives and, of course, their poetry. Along with images, recipes, and interviews. A Laureate's work is never done!
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...