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JCSU hosts Poet Laureate of North Carolina for an evening of conversation and poetry

April 26, 2022 / Charlotte, N.C. - Jaki Shelton Green, ninth Poet Laureate of North Carolina, visited Johnson C. Smith University answering questions from students, faculty, staff and guests, as well as sharing stories of her life and her poetry.

Shelton Green started her visit with an exciting and thought-provoking dialogue with members of the JCSU community. She posed questions to students, answered their questions and told stories about her life and her family. She also talked about her experiences in teaching others how to write and express themselves.

“You don’t have to be a writer to come to my retreats. You just have to be someone who is very interested in digging deep into your creativity. I don’t believe that I can teach anyone how to write a poem, you don’t need me for that. But what I think we need to have conversations about are the things that keep us from telling our stories,” said Shelton Green. “What I’m really interested in is ‘What holds you hostage? What holds your voice hostage?’”

In addition to holding private writing retreats for women, Shelton Green teaches Documentary Poetry at Duke University Center for Documentary Studies and is the 2021 Frank B. Hanes Writer in Residence at UNC Chapel Hill. Additionally, she received the George School Outstanding Alumni Award in 2021.

“We are all writers, and it is how you define yourselves as writers. If you have a voice, if you talk every day, you are a writer. We’re all writers,” she said. “Your voice is your unique voice. My voice is my unique voice.”

After the conversation and reception with the JCSU community, the public joined the informal chat in Grimes Lounge. Shelton Green shared her poetry and answered more questions from those assembled.

Shelton Green, appointed as the Poet Laureate of North Carolina in 2018, is the first African American and the third woman in that role. Reappointed in 2021 for a second term by Governor Roy Cooper, she is a 2019 Academy of American Poets Laureate Fellow, 2014 N.C. Literary Hall of Fame Inductee, 2009 N.C. Piedmont Laureate appointee, and 2003 recipient of the North Carolina Award for Literature.

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