For a video of the installation ceremony, please go to


How a Poem Happens:

Go to, 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, February 12, 2010


(At the state Capitol with Linda Carlisle, Head of the Dept. of Cultural Resources, and new Poet Laureate Cathy Smith Bowers)

On Wednesday Feb. 10, Cathy Smith Bowers was officially installed as North Carolina Poet Laureate. ( )I was delighted to place the laurel wreath on her head. My Lasso blog will now be archived here, so please visit it as often as you wish. The NC Arts Council will be setting up its own laureate website soon and will link to this blog.

Thank you for visiting this blog. Please visit my other blog now--Here, Where I Am, where I will be now and then featuring poets and new books from NC and elsewhere.

Thursday, February 4, 2010


(Photo by Ranger Thomas Randolph, Mount Jefferson State Natural Area-- )

What every mountain needs is young poets like the ones below to celebrate it every year! Mount Jefferson is one lucky mountain. Thanks to Mount Jefferson State Natural Area and Park, it has a program designed to encourage students who live nearby to write poems about it, and it has Ranger Thomas Randolph, who is devoted to keeping this program going. Just look at Ranger Tom's face in these photos! He's loving every second of it. He's proud of these young students and proud of their accomplishments.

If you go to an earlier blog post you will find the poets I chose in last summer's poetry contest, along with the history of this program--, we celebrate Mount Jefferson's younger poets in grades Kindergarten-6, divided into two categories K-3 and 4-6. The theme was Mount Jefferson's seasons. I had a terrible time splitting hairs among these poems. I stood at my kitchen counter shuffling and re-shuffling poems. So many good ones! How could I choose? Here are my choices, along with photos of the poets. Congratulations to all of them.

And thank you teachers, students, and Ranger Tom for your good work in the name of NC's natural treasures and its poetry.

Addie Fairchild's poem in the voice of Mt. Jefferson right away caught my eye. I'll be honest--it was a toss-up between her excellent poem and Brianna McCoy's "Mount Jefferson Nature." Both had great images. Zachary Richards' "Mt. Jefferson's Bobcat" also thrilled me. It gave me goosebumps! Well, I even burned lunch while reading all these poems. That's what poetry does to you. Forget about multi-tasking while you are reading it. You have to give your heart and soul to it, all your attention.

I FEEL THE SEASONS (first place) This kind of poem is difficult to pull off, speaking as a non-human object or animal. She makes it work!

The trees that cover me are all f I feel the winter coldness on my face,
the trees that cover me are all frozen
My nose is frozen.
The air is windy

The snow is all around me.

I feel the spring breeze through my hair,

From the bottom up I'm green all over.

Animals waking everywhere,
Flowers swaying along with the wind,
Flowers all around me.

I feel the summer sun on my shoulders,

People climbing to my peak.

The fiery warmth touches me day and night,

Picnics on my tree covered skirt,

Fireflies all around me.
I feel the chill of all through my ruffled coat,

As time changes, days get shorter.

Leaves are falling through the brisk air,

The temperature is dropping down low,
Bright Colors all around me.

by Addie Fairchild

Westwood Elementary Schools
Westwood Elementary School

Addie Fairchild 1st Place (Tent) Far Left

Zachary Richards 3rd Place (Sleeping Bag) Second from Left

Zeb Duvall Science in poetry (Tent) Third from Left

Jamie Richey Unique Poetic Vision (Telescope) Far Right

Zachary Richards, Third Place (second from left in photo above)

Now, don't be confused. I'm skipping around to accommodate these wonderful photos Ranger Tom sent.

Here is Brianna's second place poem, and you can find her in this photo, third from left.

Mount Jefferson Nature (second prize, 4-6)

Listen quietly and you will hear

A musical sound that by no doubt

brings Joy to us.

The rippling brook gurgles quietly,

the water seems to say, "Peace, peace, peace.

A doe takes a drink form the gurgling brook

and swivels her head to take a look

at her fawn, who is sheepishly trying to hide

while peeking out from his mother's side.

A gray squirrel is alarmed to hear

the call of the wise old owl.

He must gather acorns

for he knows that winter is near!

The old owl watches the gray squirrel,

amused by his alarm.

As he glides swiftly down to hunt,

mice scurry all about.

So you see, Mount Jefferson Nature

has its own song,

to show us the way

that the mountain animals

end their winter days.

by Brianna McCoy

---A lovely poem, isn't it? And I admire the way she uses rhyme.

(Westwood Elementary first through third prizes and Honorable Mentions )

Mountain View Elementary students impressed me mightily, and I'd like to congratulate the teachers who have turned these very young students on so early to the joy of poetry.

Mikayla Mullis's poem charmed me, especially her images of tree limbs shining like diamonds and clouds so thick they feel "like a blanket covering you." I loved the haiku -like poems by Yair Valcasar, Jordan Potter, and their classmates. I just couldn't decide, so I gave a tie to Yair and Dustin Sheets for third prize. What a great way to begin showing students how poetry helps you focus on what you see!

Mountain View Elementary

Far Left 2nd Place Mi Kayla Mullis (Back Pack)

Back row far Left 3rd Place (tie)Dustin Sheets and Yair Valcazar(Sleeping Bag)

Honorable Mention EmilyFarmer, Victoria Osborne, Jordan Potter, Brandon Taylor, Quin Farmer

(Blue Ridge Elementary Honorable Mentions in Poetry)

Blue Ridge Elementary School outdid itself in this poetry challenge. Brianna McCoy and Karoline Keith wrote two poems I just couldn't resist. I chose Karoline's poem for first in the K-3 division. You will see why when you read it.


I think it is cool that I can see
Mt. Jefferson from my front yard.

Mt Jefferson is big and tall,

It has lots of nature trails to walk and run

It is a great park for people and

animals to have tons of fun.

It's a safe place for our wildlife

friends to be

They are protected by park Rangers for you and me.

From the top of the mountain

you look out and see the horizon.

There are huge rocks to climb on

to enjoy all the beautiful views.

I'm so thankful to spend the day

with my family on Mt. Jefferson

to hide and play.

I'm very happy Mt. Jefferson is in Ashe County!

by Karoline Keith, age 8, Second Grade

Here is Mikayla's second place poem in the k-3 category.

Sun gleaming down on the trees filled with snow and ice.

Tree limbs shining like a diamond from the sun.

Animals running around without a care in the world

They are as free as birds soaring like eagles.

Mountains so high they touch

the sky. Sky so blue and clouds

so thick they feel like a blanket covering you.

by Mikayla Mullis, grade 3, Mountain View Elementary

Third prize is a tie. I was taken with Yair's poem, which has the immediacy of Japanese haiku.

Mount Jefferson by YairValcazar

Big trees

Lots of animals

Gray rocks

Tall mountain

Dustin Sheets was straightforward in his praise of Mt. Jefferson:

Mt. Jefferson is a good place to live

If you live there

it is cool.

It has a lot of stuff.

(grade 3, Mountain View Elementary)

Here is another poem that I really liked from the k-2 division.
Mount Jefferson by Jordan Potter

I can see...
I can hear...
leaves crunching

If we had more poets celebrating our best loved places, our homes, our mountains, our rivers, our seashores, perhaps we would all take better care of those places, making sure that they are there for future young poets to enjoy! A friend, Sheila Kay Adams, ballad-singer and storyteller from Madison County, recently told me, "We are losing our homes." She suggested the state ask each county to choose two writers to compose either poetry or prose about their places and have them gathered into an anthology for North Carolinians to read and enjoy. These young poets have begun that project already. I salute them and urge other institutions around the state to do begin their own poetry projects. In this, my last blog post as NC Poet Laureate, I ask anyone who reads these student poems to write a poem or brief essay about a loved place that you hope will be saved and protected. You can email me through my other blog, "Here, Where I am." I will post what you send me.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010


Contrary to an earlier post, our new poet laureate Cathy Smith Bowers will not be posting to this blog. She will have her own site through the NC Arts Council's projected "umbrella site", which will also link to my Lasso archive. I will move a few of my Lasso features over to my "Here, Where I Am" blog, such as features on specific poets and new books I like. These posts will focus mostly on NC writers, but I am now able to give more attention to work outside our state. I invite you to visit "Here, Where I Am" and post comments. I'm also hoping to set up some "assignments" for interested writers, readers, and teachers.

I'll keep you updated on the status of the Arts Council's laureate site.

In the meantime, I'll be making the transition from Lasso to kitchen window! See you there!

Monday, February 1, 2010


(John York, NC Teacher of the Year, at the NC English Teachers Banquet in Winston-Salem)

John York has been a friend of mine for many years. He teaches English and creative writing at Penn-Griffin School for the Arts, has been a devoted member of the NC English Teachers Association, winning their Teacher of the Year award, and best of all, is a splendid poet, one of the best in our state. His chapbook titled Naming the Constellations will be published this summer in Spring Street Editions' chapbook series. He's a graduate of the UNCG MFA program; his work has appeared in numerous journals and magazines, as well as in several chapbooks. His prizes for writing include a Literary Award for Poetry from Greensboro Review and the Poet Laureate Award, in 2008, from the North Carolina Poetry Society. His poems have recently appeared in Appalachian Journal, International Poetry Review, and Pembroke Magazine. The titles of his chapbooks are Picking Out (Nebo Poetry Press) and Johnny's Cosmology (Hummingbird Press).

"Naming the Constellations" appeared in Pine Needles and those who are interested may find it at NCPS website:

Here are two poems from his forthcoming publication.



Against the black pines,
a great egret, so large, so white, wading,
then freezing above its reflection.


Every Independence Day
it returned to our pond where it pretended
to be two reeds and a patch of sunlight,
until the splash, the snaky lunge,
the image shattered, rippled, coming back,
the beak pointing skyward,
the momentary swelling of the neck.
How I wanted to sneak in
for a closer look but had no cover,
so the alarmed bird would spring up,
laboring, beating the air,
circling, then heading over the horizon
to another pond, a quieter place.


And I imagined the minnows, frogs, salamanders
all relieved, all gathering in the dark
to tell horror stories
of Snapping Turtle, Mr. Cottonmouth, Big Daddy Bass—
but saving a shuddering whisper for the Lightning Striker,
Death’s Angel,
and proclaiming the name sacred, a secret.


But here, smelling the shore mud
and listening to the water, the wind as quiet as bird’s breath,
I pretend to be the plumed wonder,
and, solitary, I wade in deeper, one step,
then, another—wishing I were never distracted,
never deceived by the radiant image
(a long beak, hidden wings)—
I concentrate, waiting for what’s moving below the surface,
a flicking shadow, breathing, moving toward my feet.


It was a long day for my father, milking
to be done by sunrise,
then the noise, the shouting of drivers,
dump trucks kicking up dust,
rushing back and forth between the field
and the wide trench silo—
carved by a bulldozer, the one
that scraped away the apple trees—
trucks loaded by the green harvesting machine
eating its way down the rows of corn
leaving nothing but stumps,
the trucks roaring back to the trench, silage mounded,
the men putting it to bed
under a black plastic tarp, my father using old tires
to hold down the edges—
all the men sweating and covered in dirt,
tassel, bits of corn leaf.

After the fields were sheared clean,
after I brought in the herd, my father went
to do the evening milking.
How were four children to know that the tarp
was sacred, that the claws
of the dog, chasing us again
and again over the black mountain,
would make enough holes to ruin everything?

Daddy came in at dusk,
raged his dead cigar back to life:
with the voice of an angry god,
Dad commanded Smoky to come to the chain,
Smoky the blond shepherd-collie mutt,
Smoky the laughing dog,
and with tail between legs Smoky obeyed,
Dad attached the chain to the collar
and threw the dog into the car, sped over the hay field
down to the trench, jerked
Smoky around and yelled as he beat
the yelping, writhing animal with his fist, with the chain—
and I was the dog writhing and yelping,
it was all my fault.

I sat with my dog long
into the night, there under the clothesline,
until my mother coaxed me into the house.

And Smoky followed the sharecroppers one day,
up to the main road, where he was killed chasing cars.