Poetry

R.A. Fountain

A.R. “Archie” Ammons never wanted to be called a Southern writer. Raised in rural Columbus County, Ammons wrote reverent poems about a Depression-era landscape of tired mules and empty tobacco barns, touting his bootstraps’ ascent to literary fame. Yet he bemoaned the South as uneducated and chose to spend most of his adult life teaching and living in upstate New York.

Cardman in her NASA gear.
Robert Markowitz / NASA

Zena Cardman knew she might not have another opportunity to pursue poetry. She was about to dive into graduate research on microbiology in extreme environments when she put that plan on ice, and opted to write a poetry collection for her undergraduate thesis at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Portrait of Jimmy Santiago Baca.
Rick Cruz/Pacific Daily News / Courtesy of Jimmy Santiago Baca

Jimmy Santiago Baca is a poet whose rough and tumble early life is now the backbone of his work.

Lee and Whetstone sit on a rug performing their work.
Photo courtesy of Sylvia Freeman.

Li-Young Lee came from a powerful Chinese family. His great-grandfather was president of the Republic of China. His father was the personal physician to Mao Zedong, the former chairman of the Communist Party of China. Fleeing exile from China, Lee’s family eventually found their way to the United States. Lee grew up witnessing the hate and violence directed at his family.

Image of the Appalachian Mountains.
Flickr Creative Commons

Many Americans spend more time looking at screens than they spend outside — or even looking out a window. This increased disconnect between humans and nature comes at a time when scientists warn that the environment is especially vulnerable: the recent National Climate Estimate estimates that annual average temperatures in the U.S. are expected to rise by about 2.5°F in the next few decades. A new collection of nature writing from Appalachia aims to bring readers closer to nature through stories about both the splendor of the mountain region and clear examples of how humans are changing the planet.

The Greensboro Bound Literary Festival has come a long way in just three years. The event was the brainchild of book lover Steve Colyer who thought that with the Triad’s rich literary scene, Greensboro needed its own book festival.

Alan Shapiro and Jonathan Farmer
Amanda Magnus/WUNC

Poetry has always been at the center of the friendship between Alan Shapiro and Jonathan Farmer. They met when Farmer took a poetry class from Shapiro at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, and in the early days they often argued about poetry. Today they agree more often but still have a lot to discuss with one another in their regular meetups.

Sylvia Freeman

Jaki Shelton Green spent her childhood with her nose in a book knowing there was a great big world that awaited her. A native of Orange County, North Carolina, Green was a fidgety child and her grandmother’s solution was to give her a writing pad. This simple gesture meant to keep her still in church, blossomed into a lifelong journey. 

Two men smiling and laughing next to each other
Laura Frankstone

What happens when a painter and a poet start working together on the same idea? North Carolina poet Jeffery Beam found out when he started collaborating with Welsh painter Clive Hicks-Jenkins. Both men had collaborated with other artists before — but never as they were creating the work side-by-side.

Cover of the book, 'A Bound Woman Is A Dangerous Thing: The Incarceration of African American Women from Harriet Tubman to Sandra Bland'
Courtesy of DaMaris Hill

The number of incarcerated women increased by more than 700 percent between 1980 and 2016, according to data from The Sentencing Project. Poet DaMaris Hill cites this statistic at the beginning of her new book, “A Bound Woman Is A Dangerous Thing: The Incarceration of African American Women from Harriet Tubman to Sandra Bland” (Bloomsbury Publishing/2019). 

Thomas Rain Crowe reading at the San Francisco Poetry Festival
Courtesy of Joe Provenzano

The stories of beat poets helped define a generation. These poets spoke the language of the streets and defied the established literary canons. Poet and author Thomas Rain Crowe was in San Francisco in the 1970s, where he was mentored and inspired by the first generation of beat poets and was part of the “baby beat” generation. 

Courtesy of Gabrielle Calvocoressi

Gabrielle Calvocoressi was born with nystagmus, a visual condition where the eyes are constantly in spasm. It took Calvocoressi a while to learn how to walk and balance, so the young child spent a lot of time sitting on the floor, daydreaming and observing the world. 

Photo of a performance of Black Poetry Theatre
Courtesy of Black Poetry Theatre

What is a hero, and who gets to be one? A Durham-based spoken word, theater and poetry company tackles these questions in its upcoming production. “Definition of a Hero” started as a piece focused on men’s relationships with their fathers but broadened out to look at the many manifestations of heroism in people’s lives.

photo of joy harjo
Karen Kuehn

Critics call Joy Harjo “the first lady of American Indian poetry.” But Harjo is more than a poet. She is also an author, musician and playwright. She is a native of Oklahoma and a member of the Mvskoke (Muscogee) Nation.

photo of book cover for 'appointed rounds' picturing an umbrella
Mercer University Press

With 11 poetry books under his belt, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill professor Michael McFee is no stranger to the written word. But there are some concepts too wide to grasp in lines and stanzas.

David Jay Photography

For many years U.S. Navy Officer Jerri Bell swallowed the story that when it came to military service, women were only involved in support roles. It was not until she started researching for a book on women’s military history that she realized the common narrative was false: women had been actively involved in combat since the American revolution. 

Courtesy of Gabrielle Calvocoressi

Poet Gabrielle Calvocoressi has become less and less comfortable viewing the world through the prisms of sex or gender. 

Tyree Daye
Courtesy of Tyree Daye

 In Tyree Daye’s debut book of poetry, the young author builds on the stories and superstitions of his mother, as well as his own memories of growing up in two small towns in North Carolina: Youngsville and Rolesville. 

Bahamas Junkanoo woman
Jerry Samet

The National Folk Festival returns to Greensboro this weekend with approximately 300 performers showcasing folk traditions from all corners of the world. Performances include everything from cajun music to beatboxing. 

Courtesy Michael McFee

Poet Michael McFee is known for creating rich images of his native Appalachia that are grounded in the simplicity of everyday life and in the unique language used by his family over generations.

In his new collection, "We Were Once Here" (Carnegie Mellon/2017), the cast-iron skillet, chewing tobacco spit, and linguistic peculiarities of the mountains become anchors for stories woven from memories.

Rohan Ayinde

North Carolina is one of only two states in the US where 16 and 17 years old kids are routinely charged as adults for even the most minor offenses. This policy has serious consequences for the youth involved. In this bonus podcast episode, poet Kane Smego shares a gripping poem called, “Oh Carolina”  about justice and conflict in North Carolina. 

Download the Bonus Episode Now

Amin Drew Law is a Palestinian-American poet and educator based in Washington D.C. In his poem, "The Secret Weapon of Chubby Boys," Amin taps into a classic schoolyard conflict and provides a hilarious and heartwarming solution. 

On this bonus episode of Stories with a Heartbeat, we reflect on some of the classroom conflicts we covered in season 1 of the podcast. From the first days of elementary to college graduation, we explored the spectrum of friction at school. This week we hear from poet Amin Drew Law with a new, potent, and poetic reminder of school conflict. 

Cover Image from ‘Resisting Arrest Poems To Stretch The Sky,’ a new anthology of poetry about police aggression against people of color.
Jacar Press

Does a smile help defend against potential police aggression? What is a mother’s role in protecting her child from a dangerous situation? A new collection of poems, “Resisting Arrest Poems to Stretch the Sky” (Jacar Press/2016), explores these questions through the work of more than 70 writers.
 

Life Pig

Nov 1, 2016
University of Chicago Press

In two new books, writer and professor Alan Shapiro explores themes of convention, pain and self-expression. “Life Pig” (University of Chicago Press/2016) is his latest book of poetry and “That Self-Forgetful Perfectly Useless Concentration” (University of Chicago Press/2016) is a new collection of essays. Host Frank Stasio speaks with Shapiro, the William R. Kenan Jr.

Rafeef Ziadah is a Palestinian poet and human rights activist living in London. Her poem, “We Teach Life, Sir,” is powerful and poignant reminder of the human condition in conflict. 

On this bonus episode of Stories with a Heartbeat, host Will McInerney reflects on some of the stories from our past episodes covering the Chapel Hill Shooting in season 1. Rafeef's beautiful and moving poetry is emblematic of the legacy and the lasting message of life that Deah Barakat, Yusor Abu Salha, and Razan Abu Salha left behind. Listen to Rafeef's poem with the link below. 

Graduation speeches tend to be predictable and repetitive. They rarely leave a lasting impression. But a couple months ago, Harvard Graduate School of Education student Donovan Livingston's voice echoed around the world as his poetic commencement speech went viral.

Picture of poet Dasan Ahanu and podcast logo.
Will McInerney / WUNC

As athletes from around the world compete for gold in Rio this summer, poets from across the U.S. are facing off in a different kind of competition. It is called a poetry slam. On this episode of Stories with a Heartbeat, we talk to poetry slam champion Dasan Ahanu to figure out what this poetic conflict is all about, and how to win.

Colette Heiser

CJ Suitt is a young black poet living in Chapel Hill, North Carolina. And he has a simple and frightening question, "Would I be shot if I called the police?"

CJ uses his poetry to combat stereotypes and to build bridges of understanding. But he admits, in the wake of yet another series of high profile killings of black men by the police, something has changed. CJ no longer feels safe walking at night.

Stories with a Heartbeat Podcast Header Logo
WUNC / WUNC

In a month filled with tragedy, how do we make sense of it all? This week on the podcast, we use a poetic lens to try and find meaning within conflict.

photo of Alexis Pauline Gumbs, her nephew, and stepsister
Alexis Pauline Gumbs

Some scholars are criticized for staying within the ‘ivory tower,’ and creating work that’s only accessible to a highly-academic audience. Alexis Pauline Gumbs does not receive that criticism.

She identifies as a community-accountable scholar and puts that identity into practice by intentionally bringing scholarly ideas into non-academic settings. This manifests in online educational projects like ‘Eternal Summer of The Black Feminist Mind,’ which creates accessible curricula from black feminist work.

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