Carrboro’s 2nd Poet Laureate, Patrick Herron, came to the poet laureate role with the ambitious idea of organizing a 2-3 day poetry festival attracting poets from all over the U.S. as well as from the local community. He ran 2 two-day festivals.
Following Patrick’s tenure, the Recreation, Parks & Cultural Resources of Carrboro became responsible for the West End Poetry Festival until the formation of the Carrboro Poets Council.
The staff of the Recreation, Parks & Cultural Resources Department of Carrboro also began an email list with those attending the Festival and other poetry opportunities, including the town’s first open mic readings at the Open Eye and other venues.
The Recreation, Parks & Cultural Resources of Carrboro did a great job putting on the festival, but needed more support from local poets in planning and implementing poetry events for it. The Poets Council led by Jay and the next Poet Laureate, Celisa Steele, with support from the Recreation, Parks & Cultural Resources, worked to make the Festival a successful annual event featuring local and national poets, well-known and emerging. A highlight of the festival is always a reading by the current poet laureate.
Making the Festival happen involved developing a budget, sending information to poets, reviewing applications from both local and national poets and securing their participation. It also included advertising, printing posters, and much more.
Over the years many poets from North Carolina and beyond have participated. Participants have included finalists for the National Book Award and the Pulitzer Prize; winners of the Kingsley Tufts Award, the Los Angeles Book Prize, the Oregon Book Award, and the Pushcart Prize; recipients of fellowships Guggenheim Foundation and the National Endowment for the Arts; and too many other accolades to easily list here.
The Festival is funded by the Town of Carrboro and the Carrboro Tourism Development Authority. Additional support has come from Weaver Street Realty, Logan Carter Realty, Open Eye Cafe. Until the pandemic, Flyleaf Books hosted a Friday night event. None of Carrboro’s poetry events would be possible without the work and support of the Recreation, Parks & Cultural Resources.