Local poet to join Literary Hall of Fame

Aug. 21, 2014 @ 12:19 PM

Too many poets write their careful, perceptive, sensitive and wise words to be shared with only a few trusted friends.
Not Mebane’s Jaki Shelton Green, the award-winning poet who will be inducted into the North Carolina Literary Hall of Fame in Southern Pines on Oct. 12.
She writes for a variety of audiences and in a variety of different ways, most recently in a new book, “Feeding the Light,” published by Jacar Press. Carolina Wren Press published four other books of poetry: “Dead on Arrival” (1977) and reprinted in 1983 and 1996, “Conjure Blues” (1996), “singing a tree into dance” (2003), and “Breath of the Song: New and Selected Poems” (2005).
Numerous honors and awards have come her way, including a term as Piedmont Laureate in 2009 and the prestigious North Carolina Award for Literature in 2003. She has seen her work inspire quilts and had her works choreographed and then performed by renowned dance companies. She has also written plays, including “Blue Opal.”
For all her accomplishments as a writer, she lets her friends and fans know that her primary motivation is public service. For many years she worked in legal services on issues like domestic violence. She has said, “My mission as a writer has always been to help amplify the stories, the truths, on paper ... to help transform humanity one poem, one verse at a time.”
When she teaches other writers and aspiring writers, Green says that when she gives her students assignments or projects, she always gives herself the same tasks and becomes a colleague rather than a director. Once, while working with women on death row, she prompted them by asking that they think about hands and use those thoughts to begin to write.
When she took on this assignment, the result was the poem below.

“i know the grandmother one had hands”
by JAKI SHELTON GREEN

i know the grandmother one had hands
but they were always in bowls
folding, pinching, rolling the dough
making the bread
i know the grandmother one had hands
but they were always under water
sifting rice
blueing clothes
starching lives
i know the grandmother one had hands
but they were always in the earth
planting seeds
removing weeds
growing knives
burying sons
i know the grandmother one had hands
but they were always under
the cloth
pushing it along
helping it birth into
skirt
dress
curtains to lock out
night
i know the grandmother one had hands
but they were always inside
the hair
parting
plaiting
twisting it into rainbows
i know the grandmother one had hands
but they were always inside
pockets
holding the knots
counting the twisted veins
holding onto herself
lest her hands disappear
into sky
i know the grandmother one had hands
but they were always inside the clouds
poking holes for the
rain to fall.

Note: Along with Jaki Shelton Green, three other poets, Betty Adcock, Ronald H. Bayes, and Shelby Stephenson, will be inducted into the North Carolina Literary Hall of Fame in a ceremony at the Weymouth Center in Southern Pines on Oct. 12.

Jaki Shelton Green’s conversation with D.G. Martin on WCHL’s “Who’s Talking” is available at http://chapelboro.com/category/wchl/lifestyle-weekly/whos-talking/. Martin’s regular weekly column appears on The Herald-Sun’s editorial page on Wednesdays and online at http://www.heraldsun.com/opinion/opinioncolumnists/martin. Martin also hosts “North Carolina Bookwatch,” which airs Sundays at noon and Thursdays at 5 p.m. on UNC-TV. Viewers with access to UNC-TV’s digital channel UNC-MX can preview the program on the preceding Friday at 9 p.m. For information or to view prior programs visit the webpage at www.unctv.org/ncbookwatch.