Gary Phillips, Carrboro poet laureate

2016WSR091

Gary Phillips serves as Carrboro's poet laureate. Photo by Gretchen Mathison and courtesy of Gary Phillips.

Meet Gary Phillips, Carrboro’s town poet laureate. 

Phillips was appointed poet laureate in 2016, and has accepted the job through June 2018. His responsibilities include organizing the West End Poetry Festival in Carrboro, and leading weekly meetings of the Carrboro Poet’s Council. The Town of Carrboro has weekly meetings that Phillips decided to present poems at as well. 

“My charge was to bring poetry into the public life of Carrboro, so I’ve taken that really really seriously and it’s been a lot of fun and a lot of work,” Phillips said.

Daniel Mayer, ArtsCenter representative, said he thinks highly of Phillips and is excited that he's the poet laureate.

“I’ve attended Carrboro town meetings where he has read poetry and he was very insightful, and is very talented as a poet also,” Mayer said. 

Phillips has been writing poetry since he was 17 years old, and has been writing since he was 11. He said it was hard growing up in Polk County, NC where he wasn't accepted because of his social and political views.

“My community rejected me pretty heavily, it wasn’t much because of my shyness, but it was the other," he said. "I entered the civil rights movement when I was 17, and I was an outcast. It was really because I was an intellectual, so you might as well chalk that up to poetry.”

He received the Morehead-Cain scholarship to attend UNC-Chapel Hill in 1972, but halfway into his junior year, he left UNC to pursue other endeavors. 

“I felt that school was heading me toward a life I didn’t want," Phillips said. "So, it was a good decision for me to quit school. I became an entrepreneur; I did a lot of traveling. I just needed a break from the direction I felt school was pushing me,” he said. 

Phillips returned to UNC and officially graduated with his diploma in 1998. He currently resides in Silk Hope, NC and is the founder of Weaver Street Realty, which he started in 1982. 

Weaver Street Realty is dedicated not only realty but in their independence and their conservation efforts.

“We’re a triple bottom line, b-corp style ecological real estate company," Phillips said. "You won’t find more than five other real estate agencies like ours.” 

He said B-corp is a way of managing business to do well for others and the local community, such as equitable salaries and sharing profits with the town. 

Phillips has a published book, The Boy The Brave Girls, a compilation of his poetry from 1980 to 2016. 

The poet laureate is also a writer, a conservationist, an entrepreneur, a naturalist, was once chair of  Chatham County Commissioners and a pastor. 

Alan Shapiro, an English professor at UNC, had Phillips as a student during Phillips’ return to UNC.

“I think he is one of the most down to earth people I have ever met and one of the most brilliant people I have ever met," Shapiro said. "And that combination of being really intelligent and just as accessible and easy to get along with is rare.” 

“I’m certain that I learned as much, if not more, from him than he did from me. He was more like a colleague in the classroom than a student.”

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