Shelby Stephenson, Poet Laureate

Shelby Stephenson is a poet musician whose introduction it was my privilege to give at the recent Carolina Mountains Literary Festival. A scant nine years older than I am and another Gemini, his childhood on a farm in the coastal plain of North Carolina couldn’t have been more different than mine. Yet his obvious love of language bonded me to his work even before I met his most personable and welcoming self.Shelby & Susa

This year Shelby was named as Poet Laureate of North Carolina, and in addition to numerous other awards for his many books, in 2001 he was honored with the prestigious North Carolina Award in Literature. While he continued to write, he worked at an array of jobs including farmer, radio-tv announcer, salesman and right of way agent, as well as being a professor of literature and the longtime Editor of Pembroke Magazine. Here is a Poet Laureate of the people, who tells us he grew up in a house where the only books were the Bible and the Sears Catalog and he never took a writing class. His well-rounded and well-grounded experience shows in the power of his poetry! Check out his books and music at; you won’t be disappointed.

This was the 10th Carolina Mountains Literary Festival. Though Shelby Stephenson was for me the highlight, I also was deeply impressed by Catherine Reid, an extraordinary essayist and Warren Wilson professor whose newest book, Falling Into Place, I highly recommend. (available at Malaprops Books as well as through our local Buncombe County Library ) Next fall, don’t miss this friendly literary festival in smalltown Burnsville NC.Shelby singing

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