The North Carolina Poetry Society’s Gilbert-Chappell Distinguished Poet series, a mentorship program for emerging writers, is entering its 20th year. 

Poet Marie Gilbert and former North Carolina Poet Laureate Fred Chappell created the program in 2003 as a way for poets to give back to their communities. 

The participants, ranging from middle schoolers to adults, are paired with distinguished poets from their region. In the spring, they will meet virtually with the mentors to discuss their poems, make revisions, and practice reading out loud. 

David Radavich, the statewide coordinator for the series, says the poets typically have a wide range of styles.

“It depends a lot on where the poets themselves are coming from. I mean, we've had Latino poets who are writing about the immigrant experience, or African American poets who are maybe in the hip hop tradition, or something like that, or just a huge range,” Radavich said. "I mean, you can write a poem about anything.”

The poets hold live readings at the end of the program, and in the summer, their work is published in an anthology. Radavich says for many of the participants, this is their first experience with performing and publication — but not usually their last. 

“This is a way to bring emerging poets into the literary life of North Carolina. So then they can begin joining the Poetry Society or other literary groups,” he said. “They can become part of the writing life of the state. So it's not just writing by yourself in your bedroom.”

He said there have been multiple mentee poets who went on to be regional coordinators for the program. 

“It's fun to see the poets grow,” Radavich said. “Grow in their writing, and a lot of them become more involved in the community.”

The 2022 anthology was published in September, and features work from the twelve emerging poets, and regional mentors from the last cohort.

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