Poetry in Carrboro, North Carolina


By Laurie Paolicelli

Carrboro is a safe harbor for all the arts. At any given time of year there will be a festival celebrating one or the other of them, perhaps most famously music and film. Now it’s poetry’s turn. The West End Poetry Festival will be held in Carrboro on the weekend of October 15, 2021. The festival will include readings, workshops, in-person and Zoomed events, and a collective poem written by the entire community. Fred Joiner, Poet Laureate of Carrboro, will be the presiding spirit of a weekend celebrating the word.

Fred Joiner, Poet Laureate of Carrboro

As a curator, Joiner has worked with Belfast Exposed Gallery (Northern Ireland), Medina Galerie (Bamako, Mali), the Smithsonian and others. He is the co-founder of The Center for Poetic Thought in Washington, DC, a Board Member for The American Poetry Museum, a member of the Artist Advisory Board for the Orange County Arts Commission, and a member of the Carrboro Poet’s Council.

Says Jackie Helvey, the communications manager of the Poetry Festival: “There’s a theory that poems have a positive psychological effect to people especially people who are isolated. Maybe that’s because in poetry, you can see everything that is beautiful and strange and you can break the boundaries, feel emotions, or just imagine.”

Helvey says the 2021 Poetry Festival will allow us to open our minds and hearts to the possibilities and meanings of a poem. Importantly, we’ll have a chance to share our ideas and writing with others. By reading and listening to poems, we are allowing ourselves to open our minds and give shape to our thoughts.

Paul Jones, Chapel Hill Poet

Chapel Hill Poet Paul Jones understands poetry to be a kind of time-capsule. “Poetry,” he says, “is a conversation between the present and the past with a hope for the future. A visitation with bards and griots, and a probe, like a wandering rocket, into parts yet unknown. A modernizing of a message in stone, a set of inscriptions on disks crashed into the moon.”

Jones is also the Vice President of the Board of Trustees of North Carolina Writers Network. He is a current member of the North Carolina Poetry Society (NCPS), founded in 1932 as an all-volunteer organization for poets and friends of poetry. The group sponsors annual contests for individual poems written by students and adults, two book contests for a published book and an unpublished manuscript, and a poetry fellowship.

The pandemic is a singular moment in our nation’s history, which will define our generation. Poetry is one of the tools we have that allow and encourage us lean in with purposeful compassion and pull each other through this decade-long ordeal.

See you next weekend!

Welcome to Carrboro (Watercolor painting by Steven Ray Miller.)

West End Poetry Festival: October 15 & 16, 2021

Friday, 10/15
7 pm – 8:30 pm
Zoom Poetry Writing Workshop with Crystal Simone Smith. In this interactive workshop, take your poetry to the next level with Crystal Simone Smith.

Saturday, 10/16
3 pm – 4:45 pm
Poetry in the Round. Gather at the Carrboro Town Commons for an open mic, featuring you at the mic! Former Carrboro Poet Laureate Gary Phillips will host as participants share one poem per person.

All in-person activities will be outdoors and masking is requested to keep everyone safe.

Saturday, 10/16
3:45 pm
Community Poem debuts on Festival Website. Read the 2020 Festival version of the community poem, Edited by Elly Bookman. A form for participation in this year’s poem can be found here. http://www.westendpoetryfestival.org

Saturday, 10/16
5 pm – 6:45 pm
Featured Poets Reading on website:

  • William Davis, former Poet Laureate of Hillsborough.
  • Patrick Herron, Carrboro Poetry Festival Founder, former Poet Laureate of Carrboro
  • Fred Joiner, Poet Laureate of Carrboro
  • Gary Phillips, former Poet Laureate of Carrboro
  • Celisa Steele, former Poet Laureate of Carrboro
  • CJ Suitt, Poet Laureate of Chapel Hill
  • Gideon Young, Host, Poets Council Member

For more information, visit: http://www.westendpoetryfestival.org

Laurie Paolicelli is the Executive Director of the Chapel Hill/Orange County Visitors Bureau.

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