Writer and poet Jaki Shelton Green became North Carolina’s ninth poet laureate in 2018. She’s the first black woman to receive the honor.
A reading and book signing featuring Jaki Shelton Green takes place Sunday, September 29, 2019 from 3–4 p.m. at Malaprop’s Bookstore/Cafe, 55 Haywood St. in downtown Asheville. She will be joined by poet Mary Ellen Lough.
Green teaches at Duke University’s Center for Documentary Studies. She has also taught poetry and creative writing at schools, colleges and libraries around the country.
Green was born in Alamance County and grew up in Orange County. She has written eight books of poetry, co-edited two poetry anthologies and written one play. She won the North Carolina Award for Literature in 2013, and was inducted into the North Carolina Literary Hall of Fame in 2014.
Green says that, as the descendant of slaves, she has an obligation to write. “It was my grandmother who told me you will write, you will tell, this is what you will do. You will be a teacher, you will write, you will tell the story. Because someone who looked just like almost died just to know how to read and write.”
“I’ve been ‘othered,’” she said. “Left out, not included, labeled an ‘angry black woman.’ So (being Poet Laureate) means a lot for so many who see themselves on the other side of certain margins, especially people of color. I honor their stories and voices and I want to create spaces where those voices are amplified. Because I’m foolish enough to believe transformation can happen, one poem at a time.”
Green shares her talents with the masses through writing workshops and readings through SistaWRITE (sistawrite.com), a group she founded. She also uses her voice and writing prowess to empower under-represented communities, something she says is deeply important to her.
Her published works include Dead on Arrival, Dead on Arrival and New Poems, Masks, Conjure Blues, singing a tree into dance, breath of the song, the play Blue Opal, and Feeding the Light.