North Carolina's Poet Laureate Jaki Shelton Green will make an appearance in the Triad Thursday. She'll be reading both old and new poems at Wake Forest University as part of the Edwin G. Wilson Speaker Series. Ahead of the event, Shelton Green spoke with WFDD's Bethany Chafin.
On her first poetry album released in 2020 entitled The River Speaks of Thirst:
It was really wonderful working outside of my normal realm, you know, to collaborate with two musicians. I've collaborated with many musicians but never to produce an album. And I was surprised at the ease and comfortability I had. But I again, I think that's who I was working with. We joked a lot, we played a lot. They came up with all of the music arrangements. I mean, it was just amazing, almost magical, that I would start talking and feel just like, "I got the beat," you know? And it was like, Yes, that's it.
On the significance of her poem, "Oh My Brother":
I like to think of poetry as being utilitarian. When I'm crafting a poem, somewhere in the back of me, I'm asking, what is the service of this poem? Why is it required? You know, who's requiring it? Of course, I'm requiring it, but who might it serve? Who needs a poem that becomes a container for grief, or container for joy, or a container for celebration? Or a container for hope? ... the purpose of the project was to embrace family members and send to them a strong message that they were not alone, that people around the country were holding them up in this project, and sharing, you know, sharing this universal human tragedy.
On whether her poetry is informed by her teaching:
I learn what I teach. I always have. And I often learn more from my students. I feel sometimes that I teach them because it's all about perspective. So yes, indeed. I can't think of any life experience that does not inform my writing on some level. Even the daily chores — I always tell people, there's a poem at the bottom of that salad bowl, there's a poem in the washing machine. When I'm performing tasks, there's a poem in there. I'm inspired by just about anything, and everything. And it doesn't always come out about that thing necessarily. Because that object or that experience or artifact elicits just a thought process that takes me somewhere else often.