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GTCC Hosts N.C. Poet Laureate

Jaki Shelton Green

By Zac Goldstein

Faculty Advisor

The past met the present when documentary poet Jaki Shelton Green gave a reading for the GTCC community on Tuesday.

More than fifty people came to the Koury Auditorium to see Green, the ninth Poet Laureate of North Carolina. Serving since 2018, she is the first African American and third woman in that role. Green, who teaches documentary poetry at Duke University, is also a contributor to The Carolina Table: North Carolina Writers on Food, GTCC's current All-College Read selection.

"I'm always happy to be on the campus of community colleges," Green said.

As a documentary poet, Green has explored topics deeply informed by history. On Tuesday, she read a poem about the life of Elizabeth Keckley, a formerly enslaved dressmaker who became a confidante to Mary Todd Lincoln. She also discussed her own family's history, including a nail - taken from a wagon transporting her enslaved great-great grandmother - that has been passed down for generations.

Though she has penned more than a half-dozen poetry collections, Green said she did not originally see herself as a poet. "Growing up, I never wanted to write. I wanted to be a scientist." The economics degree holder noted that "sometimes, our life's journey finds us."

Along that journey, Green said she has become convinced of the power of the spoken word, seeing it as a source of hope and empowerment for a struggling culture. "We need to be light-bearers," she said. "We are all our ancestors' wildest dreams."

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