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Extended Interview: 'Art Helps Us Meet In The Middle,' Says NC Poet Laureate

Lilly Knoepp
NC Poet Laureate Jaki Shelton Green poses at Associate English Professor Pam Duncan's desk during a recent trip to Western Carolina University.

Blue Ridge Public Radio’s Lilly Knoepp sat down with North Carolina’s Poet Laureate Jaki Shelton Green after she visited Western Carolina University writing students. Shelton Green talked about how she views her work as a part of Southern Literature, why poetry is important and where real change happens. Here are some key parts of the conversation. 

How people should be introduced: 


“I believe in the philosophy that what we keep, keeps us. So I ask people to introduce themselves by way of an object, a memory, a place or something special that they keep. And as we go around the room sharing that people start to hear their own stories inside of the other things that people are keeping.” 


Tune in at about seven minutes to hear a story about Biscuitville, ‘Make America Great Again’ hats and Black History Month:


“This story for me embodies what this work can be as the poet laureate, as an ambassador of literary arts across North Carolina. Meeting people where they are. Not being judgemental.Being open to all of the possibilities as we are open to how we start to reframe our humanity.“ 

Here's how Shelton Green thinks about her writing from places outside the United States. She says they are still a part of Southern Literature: 


“It’s the connectedness of my humanity wherever I go. I remember once years ago, I asked a student, ‘Where are you from?’ and he said, ‘Every where I have ever been.’ That line struck me then and I was like, ‘woah, you are absolutely right.’ We carry our stories with us. And we bring pieces of other cultures back with us. And then they all get mixed up in the soup.” 

Lilly Knoepp serves as BPR’s first fulltime reporter covering Western North Carolina. She is a native of Franklin, NC who returns to WNC after serving as the assistant editor of Women@Forbes and digital producer of the Forbes podcast network. She holds a master’s degree in international journalism from the City University of New York and earned a double major from UNC-Chapel Hill in religious studies and political science.
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