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Jaki Shelton Green Is North Carolina's New Poet Laureate

Jaki Shelton Green
Courtesy of Office of Governor Roy Cooper

Writer and poet Jaki Shelton Green has been named North Carolina's ninth poet laureate. She's the first black woman to receive the honor. Green replaces Shelby Stephenson, who has been poet laureate since 2015.

Green teaches at Duke University's Center for Documentary Studies. She also has taught poetry and creative writing at schools, colleges and libraries around the country.

“I am deeply touched to be named poet laureate,” Green said. “To serve as North Carolina’s representative for poetry and the spoken word is a tremendous honor.”

Green said in a press release she will spend her time as poet laureate on "creating documentary poetry, working with North Carolina communities to explore the ways they document their unique regional histories and significant historical events."

In making the appointment, Gov. Roy Cooper said in a statement: “Jaki Shelton Green brings a deep appreciation of our state’s diverse communities to her role as an ambassador of North Carolina literature."

Green was born in Alamance County and grew up in Orange County. She has written eight books of poetry, co-edited two poetry anthologies and written one play. She won the North Carolina Award for Literature in 2013, and was inducted into the North Carolina Literary Hall of Fame in 2014.

She said at the induction ceremony at Durham County Library that as the descendant of slaves, she has an obligation to write. "It was my grandmother who told me you will write, you will tell, this is what you will do. You will be a teacher, you will write, you will tell the story. Because someone who looked just like almost died just to know how to read and write," she said. 

Her published works include "Dead on Arrival," "Dead on Arrival and New Poems," "Masks," "Conjure Blues," "singing a tree into dance," "breath of the song," the play "Blue Opal" and "Feeding the Light."

David Boraks is a veteran journalist who covers climate change for WFAE. See more at www.wfae.org/climate-news. He also has covered housing and homelessness, energy and the environment, transportation and business.