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'Everybody has the potential to be a poet': Carrboro names next poet laureate

The city of Carrboro announces a new poet laureate who will focu
The city of Carrboro has announced a new poet laureate who will focus much of their attention on eco-poetry and nature-centric poetry.

Liza Wolff-Francis has been selected as Carrboro’s next poet laureate and will begin her term in January, taking over for current Poet Laureate Fred Joiner. 

This year, the Carrboro Poets Council,  a subcommittee of the Carrboro Arts Committee, unanimously voted for Wolff-Francis.

Every two years, council members lead the application and selection process for the community’s poet laureate. 

Upon receiving applications, they narrow down the candidate pool — using interviews when necessary — before sending their nominations to the Carrboro Arts Committee,Gideon Young, a council member, said. 

When looking at applications, Young said the council was seeking someone to increase the presence of poetry and someone who either had experience organizing events or a willingness to learn those skills.

“The goal of the poet laureate is really to promote poetry in the community and for someone to be able to spearhead our efforts,” Susan Spalt, a council member, said.

Spalt said for the past several months, Wolff-Francis has pitched many ideas for promoting poetry and has been an active member of the Carrboro Poets Council.

“We are all very happy to have Liza as our poet laureate,” Spalt said. “She is a wonderful poet, and she is also very experienced.”

Members of the council mainly work to organize the West End Poetry Festival and the annual Carrboro Day.

“It revolves around getting people engaged with poetry and poetry writing as an active discipline and practice,” Alex Benedict, another member of the council, said. 

As poet laureate, Wolff-Francis said she hopes to encourage poetic curiosity in the community. She said she looks forward to hosting workshops and spaces for people to connect and express themselves.

“I think everybody has the potential to be a poet,” Wolff-Francis said.

On Oct. 15, both Joiner and Wolff-Francis will give poetry readings as a ceremony for the beginning of the transition.

Joiner was chosen as an Academy of American Poets Laureate Fellow in 2019, which Young said brought national attention to the Carrboro position. 

Spalt said Joiner has also read to the Carrboro Town Council before its meetings, which provides the Poets Council helpful exposure. Spalt added the council hopes to add even more poetry activities under Wolff-Francis’s leadership. 

“As poet laureate, I can do poetry workshops, readings, have people come do open mics and different sharings of poetry together,” Wolff-Francis said.

She said she views poetry as a powerful tool for uniting all groups of people.

For the past couple of years, she said she has been focusing on a mix of eco-poetry, nature poetry, the role of humans on earth and climate change. However, in the past, she has also written about topics important to her, such as gender equity and immigration.

Wolff-Francis also said she enjoys writing confessional poetry about events and experiences in her life.

“Poetry is a way to connect with the community,” she said. “It’s a way for people to use their voices.”

She said she is most excited to hear poetry written by other people, especially after having already heard others' impressive works.

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“It’s not just about my poetry, but really showcasing all the diverse voices that are in the area,” Wolff-Francis said.

@DTHCityState | 

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