North Carolina's Poet Laureate Shares Her Favorite Songs To Celebrate National Poetry Month

In celebration of National Poetry Month, North Carolina Poet Laureate Jaki Shelton Green made a playlist of some of her favorite songs. Find her liner notes - and a link to the Spotify playlist below!

"Salt" by Lizz Wright - This song's earthiness and the lyrics are a daily mantra reminding me that I am the curator of my life.

"Wade in the Water" sung by Lois DeLoatch- This classic song transports me back to my earliest roots in Southern Black churches. The strength of those wooden pews held the sorrows, fears, hopes, prayers, and testimonies of elders. I am reminded when Lois sings in her southern cadence how deeply affected I am by these timeless hymnals.

"Herman's Mambo" by Lou Donaldson - This tune carries the rhythms of Cuba so eloquently, inviting me to dance.

"Four Women" by Nina Simone - This is one of the first songs I ever choreographed to dance. The song was very instructive to my teenage-self wrestling with all the challenges of self-identifies that occupied space in the psyche.

"The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face" by Roberta Flack is a song I whispered into my baby Imani's ears. The song was as hauntingly beautiful as my first born... the life that I was chosen to birth. Hearing it continues to flood my heart.  

"Resilient" by Rising Appalachia - A song for our hopes, prayers, and activism. It reminds us to stay vibrantly resilient in our bodies, spirits, and minds as we face the woes of our humanity. This song is prayer, grace, and benediction for me.

"A Love Supreme" by John Coltrane - This song has been my constant companion for years guiding me creatively through long self-imposed writing marathons.

"Collard Greens and Cornbread" by Fantasia Barrino - A sweet nod and homage to unconditional love, iconic southern food, and all the stories that belong to food that feeds the soul and the heart.

"So In Love" by Anthony Hamilton and Jill Scott - My serious jam. Saturday morning house cleaning music. This song provides an invigorating energy as I dance through my chores. It makes me smile about love!

"It's Only a Paper Moon" by Nneena Freelon - It Stretches me into "art making mode." The lyrics for me are all about the poetry of all things.  

"Spanish Harlem" by Ben E. King - This was my favorite song to practice the Cha Cha Cha to as a kid. It remains one of my favorite songs sung by the King himself.

"A Lover's Question," "Little Bitty Pretty One," and "Lover Please" by Clyde McPhatter - These were favorite songs played in our home. l have tender memories of dancing around our living room to Little Bitty Pretty Oneand sitting listening in the kitchen to these tunes over lazy Saturday breakfasts. My parents often went to see Clyde McPhatter performing his shows whenever he returned to Durham. 


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