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Gov. Cooper appoints Jaki Shelton Green N.C. Poet Laureate

North Carolina’s new poet laureate Jaki Shelton Green with a cake prepared by Stacey O’Neal for SistaWrite, Green’s women’s writers group that visited Ocracoke in 2016. Photo by P. Vankevich

RALEIGH–Gov. Roy Cooper today announced the appointment of Jaki Shelton Green, poet, teacher and community arts advocate, as North Carolina’s ninth poet laureate.

Green, of Mebane, is the first African-American and the third woman to serve as the state’s ambassador for poetry and the spoken word.

She will be installed during a public celebration later this summer. Green succeeds Shelby Stephenson, who was named poet laureate Feb. 2, 2015.

An award-winning poet and community activist, Green visits Ocracoke frequently with her Sista Write writer’s group, which was last here in 2016.

“I am deeply touched to be named poet laureate,” Green said in a press release from Cooper’s office. “To serve as North Carolina’s representative for poetry and the spoken word is a tremendous honor.”

“Jaki Shelton Green brings a deep appreciation of our state’s diverse communities to her role as an ambassador of North Carolina literature,” Cooper said. “Jaki’s appointment is a wonderful new chapter in North Carolina’s rich literary history.”

Green teaches Documentary Poetry at Duke University Center for Documentary Studies.

Over the last 40 years, she has taught poetry and led creative writing classes at public libraries, universities and community colleges, public and private schools and with literary organizations across the nation.

A community arts advocate, Green has created and facilitated programs that serve various audiences and populations, including the incarcerated, homeless, chronically and mentally ill, victims of domestic violence, public and private schools, literacy programs, immigrants, and community economic development and social justice nonprofits.

Jaki Shelton Green and island writer Kelley Shinn. Photo: P Vankevich

As the poet laureate, she plans to focus her reign on the creation of documentary poetry, working with North Carolina communities to explore the ways they document their unique regional histories and significant historical events.

“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,” said Susi H. Hamilton, secretary, N.C. Department of Natural and Cultural Resources. “What a welcome addition she is to the tradition of poet laureates in North Carolina.”

A native of Orange County, Green has written eight books of poetry, has co-edited two poetry anthologies and has written one play.

She is a 2014 North Carolina Literary Hall of Fame inductee and was the recipient of the North Carolina Award for Literature in 2013.

Green’s awards also include a 2017 Duke University Faculty Travel Grant to the Alhambra Cultural Center International Prose Poem Symposium in Marrakech, Morocco, and the 2016 Kathryn H. Wallace Award for Artists in Community Service, through the Triangle Community Foundation.

She was named inaugural N.C. Piedmont Laureate in 2009 and won the Sam Ragan Award for Contributions to the Fine Arts of North Carolina in 2007.

She has judged poetry for schools, anthologies, and celebrated prizes such as the Julie Suk Poetry Award, North Carolina Poetry Society, the Nazim Hikmet Poetry Festival, and Poetry Out Loud.

Green’s poetry has been widely choreographed by dance companies including the Chuck Davis African American Dance Company in conjunction with the Kennedy Center and the Nasher Museum at Duke University; Murmurations Dance; Two Near the Edge Dance Company; Danca Nova Dance Company, in collaboration with the Colorado Naropa Dance Institute; and Miami City Ballet.

“The Poet Laureate program is one of the most important ways that we celebrate and share our state’s literary heritage with the people of our state,” said Wayne Martin, executive director of the N.C. Arts Council. “The Poet Laureate is a symbol of North Carolina’s achievements in poetry and our writers’ contributions to our national cultural legacy.”

To read a prior story when Jaki Shelton Green and her Sista Write group were on the island in 2015, click here.

For an audio interview with Green, click here.