The Daily Tar Heel

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Friday December 2nd

Open mic event at Flyleaf accompanies Shelby Stephenson reading

Students will have the chance to perform original poetry alongside the state's poet laureate at Flyleaf Books tonight.

Tonight's event will consist of featured poets Shelby Stephenson, the current North Carolina Poet Laureate, and Moncure-based poet Judy Hogan reading for about 20 minutes each with an open mic afterwards.

“Not only will the audience be able to hear some great poetry from noted poets, but they’ll be able to read theirs alongside these poets,” said Travis Smith, a spokesman for Flyleaf Books. 

“It’s not just the kind of sit-and-receive poetry that’s spoken to you. People can actually participate, and I think that’s really valuable for people in the community to be able to do."

Stephenson is one of many poet laureates who have performed at Flyleaf, including past laureates such as Joseph Bathanti, Cathy Smith Bowers and Kathryn Stripling Byer. Although they haven’t always come during April, Stephenson’s presence at this reading will make this event a great way to celebrate National Poetry Month. 

“It’s an honor for us to have them here, especially in poetry month,” said Stan Absher, who hosts the monthly poetry reading nights with Pam Baggett.

Stephenson is the current North Carolina Poet Laureate, a prestigious two-year position awarded by the Governor based on recommendations from the North Carolina Arts Council. The laureate receives a $10,000 stipend and works on a specific project or program, doing a lot of readings but also teaching workshops. 

Stephenson grew up on a small farm near Benson where he still lives today. He has published three books of poetry and has received many literary awards. 

“I think it’s a good chance for people that perhaps have not seen him perform his poetry or read his poetry to get introduced to it," Absher said. "He’s a very good reader, a very good poet, a very personable person, so it should be quite enjoyable reading.”.

Hogan, from Moncure, North Carolina, just published her sixth volume of poetry. She also founded the Carolina Wren Press in Durham.

“They’re big figures in the literary life of the state,” Smith said.

Past laureates have created projects that have helped put poetry in a more accessible light on the state and national levels. Bathanti, the previous laureate, created a program to help war veterans deal with their time at war by writing about it.

“I mean you can read something in a single page that will change your day or change your thinking, or kind of rescue you from a mood you’re in because you see 'Oh, this person experienced this too,'” Baggett said. 

“There’s a lot of brilliant writing out there and its perfectly understandable and beautiful and I think that’s why they started these readings — so people would hear that poetry.”

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