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Village Voices by Thad Beyle


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Published: Tuesday, June 1, 2004

Festival draws masters of rhyme and meter
Of styles, there’ll be a smattering at the weekend Carrboro gathering.

The Carrboro Poetry Festival will be from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday and noon to 9 p.m. Sunday at the Carrboro Century Center. Free. Information and schedule available at

By Dave Hart, Staff Writer

CARRBORO — When Patrick Herron was selected as Carrboro’s poet laureate last year, someone asked him what he hoped to do with his new position of poetic authority.

“I wanted to host a poetry festival,” said Herron, whose one-year term as poet laureate expires in July. “That was really the main reason I wanted to become poet laureate.

“I know poets from all over the country, but, oddly enough, I don’t know that many here. I thought a festival would be a great opportunity to bring together poets from other places and poets from this area.”

He’s doing just that. For the inaugural Carrboro Poetry Festival, to be held at the Carrboro Century Center Saturday and Sunday, Herron has put together a lineup of 40 poets from down the block and across the country. Poets will take turns reading, for 15 minutes at a time, from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday and from noon to 9 p.m. Sunday.

Admission is free.

“You can come and go, stay all day or just listen to one or two, whatever you want to do,” Herron said. “There’s going to be such a range of different stuff that you’re bound to find some things to your taste.”

The collection is diverse in every way: age, race, gender, subject, style, approach, publication history, place of residence and so on.

“It’s a real stew,” Herron said. “It’s a really good mix. The criteria for selection were extremely subjective: I picked people whose work I really liked. And I like people who work in styles that are all over the map. Overly intellectual mannered poetry, slam, elliptical, you name it.

“I never went the MFA route. I just sort of made my own way, and it’s worked out really well. One nice side effect of that is that I don’t owe anybody favors, I don’t have to worry about tenure, I don’t have to worry about getting published, I don’t have to worry about somebody helping me get a job. So I could pick anybody I wanted and ask them to come. A flattering number of them said yes.”

Some of the poets scheduled to appear are nationally renowned, published in highly regarded journals and anthologies. Others haven’t yet produced ripples that spread quite so far — but that’s part of the appeal of the whole thing, said local poet Paul Jones, who is slated to appear.

“Some of them I know, and some I’ve never heard of,” said Jones, creator and editor of the Internet Poetry Archive and winner of the 1990 North Carolina Writers Network Poetry Chapbook Prize. “That’s one of the great things about it. We’re going to hear so many different voices, so many different approaches.

“I love that this is happening. There’s always been poetry in Carrboro; it’s just not always in a concentrated public display. I think it’s going to be wonderful.”

Among the more prominent national poets who will perform are Brian Henry, editor of the journal Verse and founder of Verse Press; Linh Dinh, whose work has been anthologized in “Best American Poetry 2000”; and Lee Ann Brown, winner of the New American Poetry Prize.

Among the local poets set to appear are Herron, Jones, Jeffery Beam, Jay Bryan, Judy Hogan, Michael Ivy, Lou Lipsitz, David Manning and Andrea Selch. Other North Carolina poets on the list include Carl Martin, Gerald Barrax, Jaki Shelton Green, John Balaban and shirlette ammons.

“There are so many good poets around here, but they don’t get heard a lot,” Herron said. “They deserve to.”

Herron and the Carrboro Recreation and Parks Department had to work quickly to arrange such an ambitious festival in such a short time.

“Patrick has done an incredible job putting this together,” Carrboro Mayor Mike Nelson said. “I think he’s taken this far beyond what any of us imagined. I think it’s going to be great.”

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