Poetry in Motion

NC's Poet Laureate visits the Port City

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JAKI SHELTON GREEN, the ninth poet laureate of North Carolina, is the first African American and third woman to be appointed to serve in the role.

She comes to Wilmington this month as the guest speaker for the Cape Fear Literacy Council’s 2022 Luncheon for Literacy, and Shelton Green recently talked with WILMA ahead of the event.

WILMA: I would love to start with just hearing a little bit about your upbringing and how you first got into writing.

Shelton Green: “Well, I grew up in rural Orange County, North Carolina. My parents built our house next door to my aunt, uncle, and grandmother. So, I have always been surrounded by my family and grew up in a community that nurtures, embraces, and loves you back. I grew up during the ’50s, ’60s, and early ’70s and was coming of age at the advent of desegregation in North Carolina, which was not the easiest thing.

I started writing very young; my grandmother would give me little notebooks to keep me quiet at church. I was fidgety, and I was nosy, but now I’m glad that I’ve always had a sense of inquiry. I was fascinated by the stories happening around me. That’s when I really fell in love with writing and started to understand that poetry is located inside of stories.

My job as a poet has been to be the forager – plucking out the poetry that lives inside of stories.”

WILMA: How has it felt for you to be appointed as the North Carolina Poet Laureate?

Shelton Green: “It’s a wonderful acknowledgment. This honor is such a wellspring of joy for myself, my family, my friends, and for readers who have been supporting me for forty-plus years of doing this work.

I know that every time I stand up – that with me standing there are my ancestors whose wings are the breath of air that I ride on. All of us are our ancestors’ wildest dreams. Having said that, it’s a tremendous honor and a tremendous responsibility to be selected.”

WILMA: You’ll also be speaking at the Cape Fear Literacy Council’s 2022 Luncheon for Literacy on May 19 – why would you say that is an important element of your role?

Shelton Green: “The Poet Laureate is a position I take very seriously, not just in title but in deed and service. So, as I work across the state of North Carolina and accept invitations to do what I’m doing on May 19, it’s important that I be – that the Poet Laureate of North Carolina is – a voice speaking to the importance of literacy. It is vital to the stability of our communities in order to move us forth.”

Cape Fear Literacy’s Luncheon for Literacy
Thursday, May 19 | 11 a.m. – 1 p.m.
Watermark Marina, 4114 River Road

Tickets: The fundraising event is free to attend, but reservations are required. A suggested donation of $100 per person is suggested, and event proceeds support the literacy council’s work to provide free and confidential literacy education for area adults.

Info: cfliteracy.org/events/cflcluncheon2022

Learn more about Jaki Shelton Green and where to find her work at jakisheltongreen.com

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Categories: Culture