New Poet Laureate of North Carolina

Poet and teacher Jaki Shelton Green has been announced as the new Poet Laureate of North Carolina. As the ninth laureate, her term officially takes effect from July1.

The announcement was made by Governor Roy Cooper. And he said: “Jaki Shelton Green brings a deep appreciation of our state’s diverse communities to her role as an ambassador of North Carolina literature. Jaki’s appointment is a wonderful new chapter in North Carolina’s rich literary history.”

Also speaking about the appointment, secretary, N.C. Department of Natural and Cultural Resources, Susi H. Hamilton said that “Jaki is an award-winning poet with a strong commitment to use poetry as a platform for building bridges across race, religion, age, gender, and identity. What a welcome addition she is to the tradition of poet laureates in North Carolina.”

“The North Carolina Poet Laureate advocates for the power of poetry and the written word to illuminate, educate, entertain and transform the minds and hearts of people of all ages and from all walks of life. The laureate acts as an ambassador for North Carolina literature and literacy, using the office as a platform from which to highlight not only his or her own work, but also the work of other writers in our state.”

Jaki is the first African-American to hold this position and the third woman. Among past poet laureates are: Shelby Stephenson, Cathy Smith Bowers, Kathryn Stripling Byer, Samuel Talmadge Ragan, Fred Davis Chappell.

A North Carolina native, Jaki is the author of eight (8) books including, Dead on Arrival, Dead on Arrival and New Poems, Masks, Conjure Blues, singing a tree into dance, breath of the song, Blue Opal (a play), and Feeding the Light, and teaches poetry at the Center for Documentary Studies at Duke University. She has received numerous awards, honors including: the North Carolina Award for Literature, the Samuel Talmadge Ragan Award, the 2016 Lenoir-Rhyne University Writer-in-Residence. In 2014 she was inducted into the North Carolina Literary Hall of Fame.

A community arts advocate, the 65-year-old Jaki believes that “Writing saves lives, helps people understand that their voice is worthy and it matters, that they don’t need others to validate them”. She has designed and facilitated writing programs across the world—in prisons, in churches, mental health centers; a career spanning forty (40) years.

In a response to her appointment, Jaki said that “I am deeply touched to be named poet laureate. To serve as North Carolina’s representative for poetry and the spoken word is a tremendous honor.”

In an interview with Jacinta White, Jaki mentioned that: “I write for the sake of my soul. And when I inspire others or bring light to the path someone is on or hold the hand of someone who is walking the path—that’s what it’s about.”

“When I work with people, I am more blessed—to be the vessel. The spirit allows me to become a part of the shared healing with people.”

Jaki Shelton Green is the founder and owner of SistaWRITE, an initiative that facilitates retreats and travel excursions for women writers.

Jaki’s poetry strikes the sky open. Hear this: “we are reminded that we have always buried our dead and we have always raised our dead”. And this: “we are the ghosts of all the children speaking through the smoke.”