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Celisa Steele Named New Carrboro Poet Laureate

by Celisa Steele on September 25, 2013

Arts CarrboroI’m pleased to announce I’m the new Carrboro Poet Laureate. My term starts immediately and lasts through June 2015.

Sweet Old Voicemail

I got a voicemail with the news that the Carrboro Arts Committee had selected me as the town’s next poet laureate when I was at a Lucinda Williams show at the Haw River Ballroom. That felt right—a good place to be to get good news.

Part of why it felt right is that I grew up in Fayetteville, Arkansas, in the house right next door to Miller Williams’s. His daughter Lucinda wasn’t there (and hadn’t made a name yet), but I remember being awed at the idea that her father was a poet, that I lived next door to poet.

And Miller Williams was generous. In 7th grade, I wrote and illustrated a book for poems for an English class, and Williams blurbed it. In 10th grade, I interviewed him for another English class.

In high school and college, I read all his stuff I could find—unreasonably pleased when I thought I knew exactly which pool hall or street or house he was writing about in a poem.

So it seems apt to me to share one of Miller Williams’s poems as part of this announcement.

On Not Writing a Love Poem

by Miller Williams

How do I say
what everybody says
as if it hasn’t been said
by everyone?

What can I do
(considering all the dead)
that isn’t banal, pretending
it hasn’t been done?

There is no death,
love, birth, that isn’t trite.
If all our passions are long-
discovered islands

patterned with footprints,
a Sunday tourism sight,
let people (cupping their ears)
say, “Listen: what silence.”

A Little about the Carrboro Poet Laureateship

I’m thankful to all the poets who served in this role before me: Kate Lovelady, Patrick Herron, Todd Sandvik, Neal McTighe, and most especially Jay Bryan, who is the immediate past Carrboro poet laureate and was instrumental in the creation of the laureateship.

According to the Carrboro Arts Committee, “The main duty of the Poet Laureate is to engage in activities that enhance the presence of poetry in the social and civic life of Carrboro.” As poets know, sometimes ambiguity is good. In this description of the duty, there’s room for each poet to shape the role to her abilities and interests.

One specific form that “enhancement” of poetry will take is coming up: Carrboro’s West End Poetry Festival, a two-day event featuring more than 20 poets. I’ll read at 7 pm on Saturday, October 19, at the Century Center as part of the festival’s final event. The talented Gabrielle Calvocoressi, the new Walker Percy Fellow in Poetry at UNC-Chapel Hill, will read as the grand finale.

I’m looking forward to the festival—and to serving as Carrboro poet laureate.

{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

George Entenman September 26, 2013 at 7:04 am

Congratulations, Celisa!

Reply

Celisa Steele September 26, 2013 at 7:09 am

Thanks, George. All Iris’s help is paying off!

Reply

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