Jaki Shelton Green

A Message To North Carolina Youth In Celebration Of National Poetry Month


When we think about how we love the world, we begin with poems of gratitude and hope.

Poetry lifts our sagging spirits.

Poetry demonstrates the wealth of the diversity of voices dwelling together and magnifying one another in all our differences; all our connections; all our good, bad, ugly; all of our beauty; and all of our tremendous humanity.

Poetry echoes our deepest experiences. Long before I was appointed the ninth Poet Laureate of

North Carolina, in 2018, I witnessed poetry transform Poetry Out Loud participants across our state.

I spent several years in the beginning of the North Carolina Poetry Out Loud program traveling the state—coaching students and providing training workshops for teachers, coaches, and judges. I was fortunate to witness strength emerge from fear as students stood up tall and proud in the spirit of honoring the words into which they were breathing life.

I closely watched shyness shift into confidence. I witnessed cockiness transition into compassionate listening for the mystery or the lesson inside the poet’s message.

From the mountains to the ocean, and all the counties in between, I am still witnessing the urgent and grand work of students who are becoming spoken-word powerhouses. Thank you for your writing genius and your love of poetry.

My message to you, as we near the close of National Poetry Month, is to continue to honor the weight of the stillness that sometimes complicates the meaning of a poem. Savor the confusion!

Honor the beautiful breath and breadth of your own commanding poetics!

Honor the emotions that poetry evokes inside of you!

Honor your brilliance and know that your recitations and love of poetry remind us over and over again that poetry springs from many unexpected convergences and infinite detail!

Happy National Poetry Month!


Jaki Shelton Green

North Carolina Poet Laureate

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