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Friday May 7th

Put a poem in your pocket: Town of Carrboro celebrates April as poetry month

Ben Goldman, a former UNC student, reads poetry in the Pit on Monday, Jan. 18, 2021. Goldman is pictured here reading works by Billy Collins.
Buy Photos Ben Goldman, a former UNC student, reads poetry in the Pit on Monday, Jan. 18, 2021. Goldman is pictured here reading works by Billy Collins.

Poetry is everywhere. It’s not just found in poetry books, but it is embedded in prose, within the lyrics of your favorite song and lodged in encouraging messages from friends. 

And you don’t have to be a skilled poet to write words that touch the lives of others. 

Carrboro Poets Council

That’s what Carrboro Mayor Lydia Lavelle wants residents of Carrboro to keep in mind this April, which she declared poetry month in a proclamation released on April 6th, in conjunction with National Poetry Month. Throughout April, the Town of Carrboro will recognize poetry month with events such as “Poem in Your Pocket Day” on Thursday, April 29, and a Zoom poetry reading, featuring a menu of local poets, on Monday, April 26. 

“I mean, to me, poetry is not just about poems, it’s about the creative impulse,” Fred Joiner, Carrboro’s poet laureate since 2019, said. “I think Carrboro prides itself on being a town that celebrates creativity, that celebrates discovery and learning.” 

Joiner leads the Carrboro Poets Council, which is a group of volunteers working to advance poetry in Carrboro. 

“We read poems at every Town Council meeting,” Joiner said. “It’s usually just me by myself, but this month, every Tuesday, someone on the poet’s council will be reading a poem to open the meeting.”

Joiner, alongside CJ Suitt, the poet laureate of Chapel Hill, will also be administering writing workshops for middle and high school kids. Joiner said sharing poetry looks different these days. 

“It’s hard during this time because we can’t gather in person,” Joiner said. “It’s always just trying to figure out ways to make sure that we’re advancing poetry and letting people understand how important poetry as a literary thing is.” 

This month, Lavelle has added poetry into her regular appearances as mayor. 

“Historically, every April, whenever I make speeches, I usually include a poem to kind of recognize the month,” she said. “I’m on the radio every Friday, so last Friday, when I was on, I read a poem.”

Lavelle read “One April Bird,” which was written by her wife, Alicia Stemper. Stemper wrote the poem last April, and Lavelle likes that the poem simultaneously reflects on last April, when the United States was deep in lockdown, and looks ahead to this April. 

Lavelle wants everyone in Carrboro to take time to read selections of poetry and to share the gift of poetry with others. On “Poem in Your Pocket” day, members of the community are urged to find a poem that they like and share it on social media with the hashtag #pocketpoem. 

“It’s kind of different than walking around and pulling (poems) out and reading (them) to people,” Lavelle said, “but a lot of people see more on social media now than they used to.”

Jay Bryan, a member of the Carrboro Poets Council and Carrboro’s former poet laureate, recognizes the importance of enjoying poetry year-round. He said the atmosphere of Carrboro has changed over the years. 

“I think that the work of poetry keeps going beyond the month,” Bryan said. “There’s a lot going on in terms of poetry locally, compared to back in the ’90s.”

To expose yourself to poetry this month, Joiner suggests buying an anthology of poems at a local bookstore, such as Flyleaf Books or Epilogue. Bryan recommends subscribing to the Poem-a-Day email list or the Poetry Foundation's newsletter, both of which will deliver a poem to your inbox each morning. 

Bryan also encourages others to find a poem they like and read it out loud. 

“Go ahead and let out your inner voice,” Bryan said. “It’s all about touching the heart.”

arts@dailytarheel.com

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