Barton Welcomes Shelby Stephenson for Victor R. Small Writers Series Lecture on October 19

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WILSON, N.C. — Barton College will welcome North Carolina Poet Laureate Shelby Stephenson for the upcoming Victor R. Small Writers Series Lecture on Monday, Oct. 19. The lecture is scheduled for 7 p.m. in The Sam and Marjorie Ragan Writing Center on campus. This event is free and open to the public, and all are invited to attend.

Stephenson grew up on “Paul’s Hill,” a family farm near Benson in Johnston County. “Most of my poems come out of that background,” Stephenson shared on his homepage of his web site, “where memory and imagination play on one another. I have written many poems about the mules we worked until I was in the seventh grade and, after that–the tractor. My early teachers were the thirty-five foxhounds my father hunted. The trees and streams, fields and the world of my childhood–all that folklore–those are my subjects.” He eventually moved back to the beloved family farm with his wife Linda.

His 14 books of poetry include “Middle Creek Poems,” “Poor People,” “Fiddledeedee,” “Play My Music Anyhow,” “Possum,” “Playing Dead,” “The Hunger of Freedom,” and “Family Matters: Homage to July, the Slave Girl,” winner of the 2008 Bellday Poetry Prize and the 2009 Oscar Arnold Young Award.

With Linda and his brothers, Stephenson has made four musical CDs, “Hank Williams Tribute” and “Sing Don Gibson,” among others. His intense, lyrical language creates moving portraits of tenant farmers, tobacco barning, family, and vanished landscapes, singing history and exposing its wrongs.

“Shelby Stephenson sees what most of us overlook, in the natural world and in other people, and teaches us to respect the mystery of the world in all its manifestations,” said Dr. Rebecca Godwin, professor of English and director of The Sam and Marjorie Ragan Writing Center. “His ancestral land in Johnston County provides the center from which he swings outward, creating universal connections as he digs deep into his own memory and his family’s past. I treasure his friendship, his humanity, and his lyrical voice that calls us to pay attention. He is truly North Carolina’s bard.”

Stephenson earned a Bachelor of Arts degree from the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill, a Master of Arts degree from the University of Pittsburgh, and a Ph.D. from the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

Stephenson won the North Carolina Award for Literature in 2001 and was inducted into the North Carolina Hall of Fame in 2014.

The Victor R. Small Writers Series is sponsored by the Department of English and Modern Languages in the School of Humanities at Barton College. For more information, please contact Dr. Rebecca Godwin, director of The Sam and Marjorie Ragan Writing Center, at 252-399-6364 or


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