Gov. Beverly Perdue recently appointed Cathy Smith Bowers of Tryon as the new state poet laureate.
"Like all good writing, Smith Bowers' poetry comes from deep in her soul. She's a woman who experienced love and loss at an early age. She's turned her journey of healing into an art form," says Mary B. Regan, executive director of the N.C. Arts Council.
"Smith Bowers has a substantial body of work and is well-known nationally for books such as Traveling in Time of Danger and A Book of Minutes," says Philip Gerard, the head of the poet laureate selection committee and chair of the department of creative writing at UNC Wilmington. "Her work has appeared in some of the finest national periodicals, including The Georgia Review and The Atlantic Monthly. She also has deep ties to North Carolina as a poet and teacher. We knew she would be a wonderful and energetic ambassador for not just the literary arts but all arts, and that she would bring as much honor to the position of poet laureate as she would receive from it."
Smith Bowers' powerful poems about family and loss have also appeared in Poetry, The Southern Review and The Kenyon Review.
"I think the state has an amazing number of poets," Smith Bowers said. "I feel honored to be among those names and representing all the poets of North Carolina. But I also want to represent people who love language, like my parents -- people who are changed by words. Poetry moves us in a profound and positive way. I am hoping this will be an opportunity for me to keep everyone in touch -- poet and word lovers alike."
The 60-year-old S.C. native teaches in UNC Asheville's Great Smokies Writing Program and in the M.F.A. program at Queens University of Charlotte. Smith Bowers received the university's 2002 J.B. Fuqua Distinguished Educator Award and the Gilbert-Chappell Distinguished Poet Award given by the North Carolina Poetry Society in 2006 and 2007.
She is the author of four poetry collections including The Love That Ended Yesterday in Texas, Texas Tech University Press, 1992, and The Candle I Hold Up To See You, Iris Press, 2009.
Smith Bowers received a bachelor's and master's degree in English from Winthrop University in Rock Hill, S.C. She went on to do graduate work in modern British poetry at Oxford University in England.
The poet laureate selection committee, comprised of distinguished members of the literary community in N.C., met in December to make recommendations for the position to the governor.
The committee members included: Gerald W. Barrax, 2009 winner of the North Carolina Award for literature, poet, and retired professor of English at NC State University; Fred Chappell, a former state poet laureate and retired professor of English at UNC Greensboro; Debbie McGill, former literature director at the N.C. Arts Council; Dannye Romine Powell, poet and former book editor of The Charlotte Observer; Mark Smith-Soto, professor of romance languages (Spanish) at UNC Greensboro and associate editor of International Poetry Review; and Ed Southern, author and executive director of the North Carolina Writers' Network.
The public nomination process yielded 46 candidates, 34 of whom chose to be considered for the post.
Smith Bowers will be installed as the new poet laureate during a ceremony scheduled Wednesday, Feb. 10, at 4:30 p.m. at the State Capitol. The ceremony is open to the public.
Smith Bowers succeeds Kathryn Stripling Byer, the state's poet laureate from 2005 to 2009.