The Town of Carrboro announced Fred Joiner, a poet and curator, as its new Poet Laureate a couple of weeks ago. He will serve a two-year term.
Joiner is the co-founder of The Center for Poetic Thought in Washington, D.C., a board member for The American Poetry Museum, a member of the advisory board for the Orange County Arts Commission and a member of the Carrboro Poets Council.
Joiner said this acknowledgement is a great honor but also daunting because he recognizes the immense responsibility that comes with this position. He said activities that he's expected to take part in, like the West End Poetry Festival, will require a lot of planning, effort and relationship-building. However, being in a place that sees the value of poetry and art is very helpful.
Joiner's family originally moved to Carrboro because of the town's grocery stores within walking distance, bike lanes and an artsy atmosphere.
“We first lived in north Chapel Hill,” he said. “And when we started looking around for homes to purchase and to live in, Carrboro came up on our radar very early because of the amenities there.”
He also felt very welcomed into the community.
“The first day we moved in, my girls went outside, and some other kids on the little cul-de-sac in the neighborhood came out and hang out with them, and I thought that was pretty cool,” he said.
Joiner thinks Carrboro is unique because its legislators and elected officials see the value of expression. He said the poetry readings before Carrboro Board of Aldermen meetings make a statement without being heavy-handed.
As the new Poet Laureate, he wants to hold poetry salons in cafes to support local businesses so that business owners can also participate in the creative process.
"Some people in the arts community tend to look at these these things as separate entities, but I think in the current and new economy, these are things we have to start to view the creative economy as just part of the rest of the economy," he said.
His parents encouraged his creative thinking, but his mother, who worked in finance, always taught him about stocks and bonds. Now, he said he doesn’t see the arts and business as being a dichotomy.
Joiner started writing poetry in middle school and began reading it publicly as an undergraduate at American University, where he studied mathematics. He laughed, saying he can't recall the first time he published his work.
“And then I started working for the American Poetry Museum in Washington, D.C., and that’s when things really picked up, in terms of arts administration,” he said.
Gary Phillips, the preceding Poet Laureate, said he and Joiner both have experience in both arts and business.
“For both of us, we want to have a life that is open enough that we can make a living and also have time to write,” he said. “I can live my life with meaning but not give my live to business, and I think that’s true for Fred, too — he’s reserved a piece of his life for his work."
Phillips read one of his favorite poems by Joiner, titled “Currency,” during his interview with The Daily Tar Heel.
“Fred is, first of all, one of my favorite poets,” Phillips said. “Fred comes from a very strong poetry tradition.”
Abigail Browning, a member of the Carrboro Poets Council, said she is thrilled with Joiner's appointment in this position.
“He has been organizing and writing for a long time, and he is the kindest, most generous and wonderful poet person we could ever imagine as the Poet Laureate here,” she said.
Katie Murray, coordinator of Orange County Arts Commission, said Joiner has become one of her primary advisers on the board, and she was not surprised when Joiner was selected as the new Poet Laureate.
“Fred is a joy — he's a joy to work with. He’s a smart guy. He makes you laugh," Phillips said. "So I’m just as happy as can be. And we had good applications (for the Poet Laureate). We had really good applications, which are also exciting, so I feel that the future of poetry in Carrboro is really strong — really good."
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