NC Poet Laureate’s Wit And Wisdom Inspires Students

a guitar playing poet

Troubadour, storyteller, perennial teacher, 76-year old Shelby Stephenson, North Carolina’s poet laureate, transfixes audiences. Alternately reading from his lyrical poems about a childhood spent “Down East” on a North Carolina farm and singing soulful renditions of Hank Williams’ ballads, Mr. Stephenson shared his passion for words with Forsyth Tech students, faculty, staff and the public October 9 at the Oak Grove Center auditorium.

Having grown up with only a Sears Roebuck Catalog and a Bible in his home, Mr. Stephenson finally discovered books and poetry in his mid-20s, he told the audience.

“Whatever poetry is, it chose me,” he explained. Although he retired from UNC­ Pembroke’s English Department in 2010, the teacher in him lives on. He urged student writers to “Put the pen on the page. If you wait for the muse, the muse will never come.”

For Forsyth Tech English instructor Lisa Stanley-Smith, the poet’s unique style struck a familiar chord. “Shelby was my professor at Pembroke. He taught his classes in the same energetic, emotional style he displayed here today. He is amazing.”