• By Candace Brennan
  • Posted Tuesday, March 24, 2015

On The Same Poem with NC Poet Laureate Shelby Stephenson

On the Same Poem

On the Same Poem welcomes North Carolina Poet Laureate Shelby Stephenson. The newly-appointed poet laureate, novelist, scholar and educator will be our featured poet for Forsyth County Public Library’s On the Same Poem Luncheon, Thursday, April 30th at noon at the Milton Rhodes Center for the Arts. Dr. Stephenson's featured poems are from his newest work, fiddledeedee.

On the Same Poem Luncheon
The On the Same Poem Luncheon has become a staple of National Poetry Month in Forsyth County. On the Same Poem (an extension of On the Same Page — the county’s annual Community Read Project) is the shared experience of reading and discussing a single poem, selected for the occasion by the featured poet. Shelby Stephenson will be reading from fiddledeedee as well as playing guitar and singing. Over a brown bag lunch, participants will discuss the poem, facilitated by discussion leaders at each table. The luncheon will conclude with Dr. Stephenson answering questions from the audience.

As space is limited, please contact us to make reservations. For information or to reserve your seats, call or email Candace Brennan at 703-3022 or brennacm@forsyth.cc or Jenny Boneno at 703-2970 or barretjs@forsyth.cc.

Shelby Stephenson Biography
SHELBY STEPHENSON lives on the small farm where he was born near Benson, in the Coastal Plain of North Carolina. “Most of my poems come out of that background,” he says, “where memory and imagination play on one another.” Educated at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill, University of Pittsburgh, and the University of Wisconsin-Madison, he is professor emeritus at the University of North Carolina-Pembroke, and served as editor of the international literary journal Pembroke Magazine from 1979 until his retirement in 2010. His awards include the Zoe Kincaid Brockman Memorial Award, North Carolina Network Chapbook Prize, Bright Hill Press Chapbook Award, and the Brockman-Campbell Poetry Prize. He has published a poetic documentary Plankhouse (with photographs by Roger Manley), plus ten chapbooks, most recently Steal Away (Jacar Press). Family Matters: Homage to July, the Slave Girl won the 2008 Bellday Poetry Prize, and the 2009 Oscar Arnold Young Award. The state of North Carolina presented Shelby with the 2001 North Carolina Award in Literature, and in 2014 he was inducted into the North Carolina Literary Hall of Fame.

Praise for Fiddledeedee
Shelby Stephenson can walk out his back door—even in his sleep, it seems, so tithed to the land is his subconscious—and see what lies hidden before our very eyes: in the roods and plowsoles, the tree bark and creek beds, in his beloved spectre ancestors forever singing in his head. He writes about the mystery of the dirt—what it yields, what it reclaims—with more precision and prescience than any poet I can think of. I can hear him now, whispering his sacramental litany, his invocation: “it is nothing but a song—the long journey home.” Fiddledeedee is Shelby at his best. Blessed be his wholly liturgical verse—the bard, the very voice, of North Carolina.
— Joseph Bathanti, former Poet Laureate of North Carolina

I am very moved by Fiddledeedee, by the accumulating strength of its forward movement as well as by telling details, of the natural and spiritual world.
— A.R. Ammons, winner of the 1973 and 1993 National Book Award for Poetry

“What can we do but sing?” Shelby writes in Fiddledeedee. We often have poems of memory that are rooted in the poet’s rural upbringing in North Carolina, rustic, elegiac, comic, grim. In Fiddledeedee, memories or homage are not an end in themselves. The poet continually seeks to connect who he was with who he is—exploratory riffs that can surprise his understanding—and therefore ours. The result is a compelling poem of meditative complexity that at the same time is poignant, lyrical, and philosophical.
— Merrill Leffler, author of Mark the Music

“Where is the word that holds ALL I am trying to say?” asks Shelby Stephenson in the Prologue to Fiddledeedee. He unleashes a poetic answer that plays and keens, singing its long journey home, immersing us in the living language of a place, the East Carolina flatlands. With three-line stanzas, often breathtaking, Stephenson leads us through the lay of his ancestral land. He gives voice to his place and its people and does so unashamedly, with passion and precision, and, yes, with real country music.
— Kathryn Stripling Byer, former Poet Laureate of North Carolina

This year's featured poem:
fiddledeedee Prologue

I went back home and held my eyes on the hill
and it said You need a word deeper than I

so I took the old fence-rails the lizards ran
and my family’s tongue came out of the Mouth
of Buzzard’s Branch, the sound of that
one story,

everywhere, in the marshes, in the fields
and lowgrounds, and I said Where is the word
that holds All I am trying to say?

and the cows lowed through their cuds over
and over it is nothing but a song--
the long journey home. . .

Shelby Stephenson's Website
Press 53

Why read poetry?
In the United States, many people shy away from poetry. They may have had bad experiences with it in school. Or, they may believe that poetry is difficult or inaccessible or not relevant to them.

But poetry can bring a myriad of personal experiences; it can stir resonance that might not otherwise be recognized. United States poet laureate Robert Frost tells us, ““A poem begins with a lump in the throat; a homesickness or a love sickness. It is a reaching-out toward expression; an effort to find fulfillment. A complete poem is one where an emotion has found its thought and the thought has found words.”

Poetry is based on voice, and must be passed through our ears. This is where the sense is made. This is where we find meaning. So, when you read these words and you see poetry,

Read it aloud

pass it through your ears

enjoy the

ride, and


the difference between poetry and prose

is that poetry is broken

into lines—

that is all.

Poetry/Rap/Song Contest for Young People
Teens in 6th through 12th grades are invited to write an original poem, rap or song for National Poetry Month. Winners will receive signed copies of , Whole Foods boxlunch at On the Same Poem Brown Bag Lunchoen and a Barnes & Noble gift card. Entry forms can be found at any Library location, or from your student’s teachers and media specialists. Entries may be submitted to any Forsyth County Public Library by 5 pm on Wednesday, April 15th. For more information, call or email Candace Brennan at 703-3022 or brennacm@forsyth.cc

Contest Rules
Writings may be on any subject, in any style. This must be an original work that has not been published. We can accept only 3 works per person. Please submit your work typewritten, 10 or 12 point font. Automatic disqualification for expletives, and derogatory or sexually explicit references.

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