Piedmont Laureate: Poet Jaki Shelton Green Will Serve for One Year
Acclaimed poet Jaki Shelton Green has been selected to serve as the first Piedmont Laureate.
Similar to the N.C. Poet Laureate program, the Piedmont Laureate program is dedicated to building a literary bridge for residents to come together and celebrate the art of writing. Co-sponsored by the City of Raleigh Arts Commission, Durham Arts Council, Orange County Arts Commission and United Arts Council of Raleigh and Wake County, the program's key goal is to promote awareness and heighten appreciation for excellence in the literary arts throughout the Piedmont region.
Green has long been an arts advocate, mentor, teacher and working poet.
"I am honored and humbled to be the first one," says Green, who adds she now feels sanctioned to spread the message to a wider group of writers that there needs to be more collaboration and networking, especially among emerging poets.
"One of our long-range goals in establishing this program is the hope that it will serve as a model to inspire similar, regionally-based Laureate programs in the state," says Margaret DeMott, director of artist services at the Durham Arts Council.
Debbie McGill, former Literature Director of the North Carolina Arts Council, concurs.
"The state poet laureate can't be everywhere," she says. "When several counties join forces to appoint a literary ambassador, the resources available for community service are exponentially greater."
"I applied to be the first Laureate because I am so excited about utilizing the fervor akin to an evangelist to facilitate a 'movement' that fosters a greater appreciation of the literary arts," Green says. "During my tenure, it is my intention to identify and interface with the numerous community-based organizations that are engaged already with literary programs and hopefully collaborate on strengthening their efforts and assisting them with strategies that will enlarge and sustain their projects."
To further this goal, the Durham Arts Council is working with the Durham County Library to identify key opportunities for the Piedmont Laureate to promote poetry and summer reading throughout the county.
Green's publications include "Dead on Arrival," "Masks," "Conjure Blues," and "Breath of the Song," which was cited as one of two Best Poetry Books of the Year by the Independent Weekly. Her books are published by the Durham-based, independent Carolina Wren Press and are available at www.carolinawrenpress.org.
Her poems have appeared in numerous magazines and journals, including Ms. Magazine, Essence, The Crucible and Obsidian, and she has read and performed her poetry and taught writing workshops throughout the United States, Caribbean, Europe and Central and South America. She has collaborated with the African American Dance Ensemble, Two Near the Edge, and ChoreoCollective to create dance and spoken word performance pieces.
Green has served on the Durham Arts Council Emerging Artists Committee and received the North Carolina Award for Literature in 2003, the 2006 Artist in Residence at the Taller Portobelo Artist Colony and the 2007 Sam Ragan Award.
In his letter of support for Green's application, Joseph Bathanti, professor of creative writing at Appalachian State University, wrote: "I've had the pleasure of seeing Jaki in action (the operative word for her dynamism).... Her readings are electrifying. She is a presence at the podium, a meld of panache and humility that embraces every audience She is North Carolina poetry's Billie Holiday"
Green will serve for one year as Piedmont Laureate and receive an honorarium of $5,000. Her duties will include presenting public readings and workshops, participating at select public functions and creating the outline for an original community activity to expand appreciation of literature.
Applications for the Laureate position were received from a three-county area. A selection committee comprised of Dr. Anjail Rashida Ahmad, director of the creative writing program at North Carolina A&T State University; Dr. Sally Buckner, author and editor; Richard Krawiec, author and editor; Banu Valladares, cARTwheels manager at the North Carolina Arts Council; and sponsoring agency representatives reviewed all applications and made recommendations.
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