THIS BLOG IS NO LONGER OPERATIONAL. PLEASE ENJOY WHAT IS HERE, AND DO LEAVE A COMMENT IF YOU WISH. NORTH CAROLINA'S NEW POET LAUREATE IS CATHY SMITH BOWERS. SHE WILL SOON HAVE HER OWN WEBSITE THROUGH THE NORTH CAROLINA ARTS COUNCIL SITE. I WILL BE SHIFTING MY ATTENTION TO HERE, WHERE I AM, (SEE SIDEBAR)USING IT TO DRAW ATTENTION TO WRITERS WHOSE WORK DESERVES ATTENTION. I INVITE YOU TO VISIT ME THERE.

For a video of the installation ceremony, please go to http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0xAk6fOzaNE.

HERE, WHERE I AM HAS BEEN NAMED ONE OF THE 30 BEST POETRY BLOGS.

How a Poem Happens: http://www.howapoemhappens.blogspot.com/

Go to http://www.yourdailypoem.com/, managed with finesse by Jayne Jaudon Ferrer, who says, "Our intent is to make visitors to Your Daily Poem aware of the joy and diversity of poetry."

Friday, January 30, 2009

OUR STATE Magazine: Why Do We Love NC?




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 news stands. So, here is how my little essay turned out.
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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.

P.S.
And may we grown-ups who love language and poetry give our time to them when we can.
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2 comments:

Diane said...

I love Our State magazine. The photography is breathtaking and there is always an article to touch my heart. North Carolina is truly a place to love. I say that as a born and breed Texan where fortunate circumstances allowed me to be transplanted into the mountains of NC. I feel no disloyalty saying so because I know that I can dream of the perfect chicken fried steak and still love chocolate cream pie...I can be a loyal Texan and love living in North Carolina.
Kathryn, thank you for letting our children be a reason to love our state.

Kathryn Stripling Byer said...

Diane, the magazine is pretty amazing, and the photography can't be matched anywhere. Our daughter lives in Austin, and I do like the TX hillcountry and the countryside between Shreveport and Austin. (We avoid taking the interstate when we can.) Not to mention the Guadalupes and the Davis mountains. A lot to love in TX, too. BUT, I too love living here, and the literary community is one of the most supportive and generous in the country.