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Poet Laureate Program

Cultural Resources Secretary Susan Kluttz, former poet laureate Joseph Bathanti, current poet laureate Shelby Stephenson and Gov. Pat McCrory at Stephenson's installment ceremony

The North Carolina Poet Laureate acts as an ambassador of North Carolina literature, using the office as a platform from which to promote North Carolina writers and the potentially transformative qualities of poetry and the written word. 

While each poet laureate shapes the position in his or her own way, duties typically include public activities with schools, community groups, and the press during the year and contact with writers and readers by mail, email and/or through a website. Some funding may be available to support these activities. From time to time poets laureate may also be called on to write a poem commemorating an occasion of historic or cultural importance.

North Carolina's current poet laureate is Shelby Stephenson of Benson. Stephenson's focus as poet laureate will be three-fold:

  • conducting writing workshops in assisted living and retirement communities,
  • raising awareness of local archives and family histories and
  • promoting writings about farming and farm life in North Carolina.  

Learn More About Stephenson and His Work

Selection Criteria and Nomination Process

Anyone can nominate candidates for the position of North Carolina Poet Laureate. The selection committee will consider candidates who meet the following criteria:

  • A North Carolina resident with deep connections to the cultural life of this state

  • Literary excellence of the writer's work
  • Influence on other writers
  • An appreciation of literature in its diversity throughout the state
  • Statewide, national or international reputation
  • Ability and willingness to conduct the public engagement duties of the office

Though the program is administered by the N.C. Arts Council, a committee drawn from throughout our department and North Carolina's literary community reviews nominations and makes recommendations to the governor for the post, and he or she makes the final decision.

Poets laureate serve two-year terms. Nominations for the next cycle will open in late 2016.