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A Great State for Poetry

by Jeffrey Franklin, Poetry Editor

Jeffrey, a white man with grey hair and glasses, wearing a white and grey plaid shirt and black pants, standing in front of a lectern and microphone, in a bookstore.
NCLR Poetry Editor, Jeffrey Franklin, reading from his latest poetry collection, Where We Lay Down,, at Scuppernong Books, Greensboro, NC, Apr. 2022

North Carolina is a Great Poetry State.

I mean that it has a rich, vibrant, and diverse poetry culture. It is a great state in which to be a poet. So, it has a deep bench of talented and dedicated poets – I’m thinking a larger number per capita than any other state, though that may be imagination talking. And, speaking of which, if there is a “Carolina state of mind,” then it inspires and is inspired by a great poetry state of mind – heart and being.

I experience this firsthand every spring when I have the privilege and pleasure of reading the semi-finalist submissions to NCLR’s annual James Applewhite Poetry Prize, selecting the finalists that will go on to the final judge – and NCLR pages. 

I experienced it even more directly last spring, when I drove (or more often was driven) across the state from Washington to Sylva, giving poetry readings mostly in independent bookstores and always sharing the podium or mic with other North Carolina poets. What a blast! I was the kid who wacked the piñata and stood in the rain of sweets. 

Which I had the privilege of sharing with an incredibly talented community of other poets, all of whom have published in NCLR (not to mention other prestigious state and national journals). Catherine Carter, Keith Flynn, Janis Harrington, Paul Jones, Priscilla Melchior, Amber Flora Thomas, Melinda Thomsen, C.G. Thompson, Valerie Nieman, and Mark Smith-Soto, as well as other poets who extended themselves to me before, during, and after my travels, namely Jim Clark, John Hoppenthaler, Terry Kennedy, and Luke Whisnant. I am deeply grateful to these fine poets for allowing me to immerse myself in the North Carolina poetry community.

My biggest thanks go to NCLR’s one-and-only Margaret Bauer, dear friend who arranged most of the readings I gave and who is my favorite car-partner, and Catherine Carter, whose example as a poet is inspiring, exceeded only by her kindness to an insecure poet. 

So, what can you do to participate in the great state of poetry, the community of North Carolina poets? 

1.      Buy the books of these and other North Carolina poets, and attend their readings. Buy from North Carolina’s impressive number and quality of independent bookstores, including City Lights in Sylva, Flyleaf in Chapel Hill, Pamlico in Washington, and Scuppernong in Greensboro (as well as ECU’s Dowdy Student Stores), all of which I thank for allowing me to show up and read.

2.      Subscribe to NCLR, the champion of literature in North Carolina – which then allows you to submit your poems to the James Applewhite Poetry Prize (submission period April 1-30, guidelines here).

3.      If your poetry is or could be performance poetry, consider submitting to the Jaki Shelton Green Performance Poetry Prize, sponsored by the North Carolina Poetry Society and managed by NCLR. For the inaugural contest this year, the final judge is Glenis Redmond (submission period April 1-30, guidelines here).

I hope to be reading your NCLR poetry submissions in a month or so.