Poet laureate Steele to enhance poetry in Carrboro
Not bound by a limited range of subjects and themes to explore, new Carrboro poet laureate Celisa Steele takes inspiration from the mundane and ignites creativity among the most restrictive circumstances.
Selected by the town’s art committee, Steele replaces longtime laureate Jay Bryant and was among the poets featured in this year’s West End Poetry Festival on Oct. 18-19.
She said will spend her two-year tenure “cultivating what the town has already planted and invested in poetry and the arts.”
“I want to try to grow the program,” she said. “I’d like to explore some ways to expand to non-poets and to a broader public in general. I’m also looking forward to meeting new people and people who care about poetry on the same level as myself and other poets.
“Right now I’m still meeting new people but a lot of the poetry scene is word of mouth,” Steele said. “I’ll spend time getting out more and having this as an opportunity to meet more people.”
Her love of verse has blurred origins. Unsure as to the catalyst of her writing career, Steele said that it has ebbed and flowed over the years.
“I’ve always written poems but I don’t know exactly why,” she said. “My parents didn’t write poetry or read it to me. Six years ago I decided to re-engage with poetry. It’s been more of an off-and-on relationship but I’ve decided to be on again and be more consistent.”
Steele explained that after the birth of her son six years ago she participated in a writing retreat that helped her “reconnect and realize that there is this group of people who write and do poetry and since then I’ve tried to be as active as possible. It’s been really great.”
There is an application process for the poet laureate position. Overseen by Carrboro’s Arts Committee, the position entails that the person chosen be engaged in activities that “enhance the presence of poetry in the social and civic life of Carrboro,” including the West End Poetry Festival and Carrboro Day.
The committee states that the laureate should be a practicing poet. A record of public readings and publications is considered an asset but not a requirement. It is also desirable that the laureate be a Carrboro resident. The application process included a cover letter, the submission of three to five poems and a statement of vision for the role of poetry in Carrboro including suggested activities.
Poetry in the Chapel Hill-Carrboro City schools is something else that Steele has expressed interest in as well as incorporating poetry and poets into the town’s Art Walk.
Until she can bring poetry into the schools, she will continue to keep it as part of her children’s daily routines. Each night Steele said that she reads poetry aloud to her son and daughter.
Steele said that she does not dumb-down poetry for her children and they have been able to find gems that are near and dear to them.
Her son prefers William Butler Yeats’ “Lapis Lazuli” while her daughter is very fond of “A Girl in the Doorway” by Jessica Surman.
With poetry a much more integrated aspect of Steele’s life, she views the art as a means to ask deeper questions and stir important conversations.
“I learn things as I’m writing, in a very literal sense but also something about the process of writing that gets at some of the bigger questions in life” she said. “Poetry is a way of continuing my education.”