Past Poets Laureate


Fred Joiner (2019-2022)

The 7th Carrboro Poet Laureate

Fred Joiner is a poet and curator based in Chapel Hill, NC. He is 2019  Academy of American Poets Laureate Fellow.  His work has appeared in Callaloo, Gargoyle, and Fledgling Rag, among other publications. Joiner has read his work nationally and internationally. He has received awards and fellowships from the D.C. Commission on the Arts and Humanities and St. Mary’s College of Maryland. One of Joiner’s poems was selected by curator and critic A.M. Weaver as part of her 5 x 5 public art project, Ceremonies of Dark Men. Another one of Joiner’s poems recently won the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African Art’s Divine Comedy Poetry Contest, in response to Abdoulaye Konate’s textile work.

As a curator of literary and visual arts programming, Joiner has worked with the American Poetry Museum, Belfast Exposed Gallery (Northern Ireland), Hillyer Artspace, Honfleur Gallery, Medina Galerie (Bamako, Mali), the Phillips Collection, the Prince Georges African American Museum and Cultural Center, the Reginald F. Lewis Museum and more.  He is the co-founder of The Center for Poetic Thought in Washington, DC, he is a Board Member for The American Poetry Museum, a member of the Artist Advisory Board for the Orange County Arts Commission and a member of the Carrboro Poet’s Council.

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Gary Phillips (2016-2019)

The 6th Carrboro Poet Laureate

Gary Phillips is a land-based poet living in the community of Silk Hope, and the former poet laureate of Carrboro, North Carolina. He lives in a rammed earth house with his wife Ilana Dubester, who is a community activist. A child of Appalachia, Gary avidly reads poetry and Afro-Futurism, studies amphibian activities on full moon nights, and tends his kitchen. His book of poetry and occasional pieces, The Boy the Brave Girls was printed in 2016 by Human Error Publishing (Wendell, Mass). A forthcoming chapbook, Subjects Suitable for Poetry, will be published in the spring of 2023.

Celisa Steele- Jan 28, 2023

Celisa Steele (2013-2016)

The 5th Carrboro Poet Laureate

Celisa Steele was born and spent the first twenty-two years of her life in Fayetteville, Arkansas. She graduated summa cum laude from the University of Arkansas with a double major in English and French. Her love of languages and literature then took her to the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, where she completed a master’s in comparative literature. Other than a year-and-a-half stint in Los Angeles, and, she has remained in the Tar Heel State and now makes her home in Carrboro, where she lives with her partner and two children and works at Tagoras, a company she co-founded that serves the global market for adult lifelong learning, continuing education, and professional development through consulting, publishing, events, and other services.

Celisa served on the Poetry Council of North Carolina from 2005 until the organization merged with the North Carolina Poetry Society (NCPS) in 2013. She has served as Pinesong co-editor and vice president of programs and in other roles for NCPS. She was an inaugural member of the Carrboro Poets Council and played in active role in its activities from 2011 to 2018, including working on Carrboro's annual West End Poetry Festival, and she served as Carrboro Poet Laureate from 2013 to 2016.

Celisa was selected as one of four participants from the central region of North Carolina to work with distinguished poet Becky Gould Gibson for the 2009-2010 Gilbert-Chappell Distinguished Poets Series, which pairs aspiring poets with poet mentors, and she was been awarded a week-long Wildacres residency in 2013.

Her poetry has appeared in numerous journals, including Prairie Schooner, Southern Poetry Review, Cave Wall, Raleigh Review, Comstock Review, Tar River Poetry, Poetry South, San Pedro River Review, and others, and has twice been nominated for a Pushcart Prize. In 2011, Emrys Press published her chapbook, How Language Is Lost.

Jay Bryant

Jay Bryan (2010-2013)

The 4th Carrboro Poet Laureate

Jay Bryan lives in Carrboro with his wife, Wendy, Praline, a miniature poodle, and Piper, a Jack Russell Beagle mix. As a member of the Board of Aldermen, he proposed the creation of Carrboro Day in 1994 and ensured that poetry readings by Carrboro poets be a part of the Day. For approximately seventeen years before the formation of the Carrboro Poets Council, he organized the poetry readings for Carrboro Day. In 2001 he proposed to the then Board of Aldermen the creation of the role of Poet Laureate. In 2013, he completed a three-year term as poet laureate, during which tenure he spearheaded the creation of the Carrboro Poets Council, on which he has served since its formation, and compiled and edited the Carrboro 100th Birthday Poetry Anthology (May 2011). In 1994 he published Haiku for Carroll, a book of haiku written to his deceased wife during her terminal illness. His chapbook, Selected Poems, was published by Finishing Line Press. His poems have been published in Blink, they wrote us a poem VII and VIII (Health Arts Network at Duke), the Ecozoic Reader, the Legal Studies Forum, Haibun Today, Cowboy Poetry and the Stone House, an anthology of haiku from Bolin Brook Farm, and Learning to Tell the Truth (North Carolina Haiku Society Anthology, 2014).

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Neal McTighe (2005-2010)

The 3rd Carrboro Poet Laureate

Patrick Herron- Jan 23, 2023

Patrick Herron (2003-2005)

The 2nd Carrboro Poet Laureate

Patrick Herron wears many hats: a poet, artist, musician and research scientist. As a poet, he was an inventor of search engine-based poetics in the 1990’s, and is also the author of several volumes of poetry, including the acclaimed Be Somebody (2008), written by his puppet, Lester.  Patrick won the 2005 Indy Arts Award for his work in launching the two-year Carrboro Poetry Festival. As an artist Patrick’s 1999 new media art project, p r o x i m a t e . o r g, was the first poetics site added to the permanent collection of the New Museum in New York City. His electronic music has been featured in Pitchfork.  Patrick is an artificial intelligence research scientist who taught at Duke for 15 years across nine different departments and programs. As a researcher once worked for President Obama’s science policy office evaluating US nanotechnology research strategy. He now helps technology companies acquire growth-stage investments that allow those companies to retain full ownership.  During the pandemic, Patrick authored a new series of poems tentatively entitled Blue Bird. He currently resides with his wife and five children in Durham.

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Kate Lovelady (2002-2003)

The 1st Carrboro Poet Laureate

Kate Lovelady was born and raised in New York City, attending public schools and studying dance and music. In 1991, Kate received a B.A. as an English Major in Writing from Northwestern University, graduating Phi Beta Kappa. Returning to New York, she worked in the publishing industry for several years, eventually starting her own writing and editing business. 

 In 1998, Lovelady moved to Carrboro where she became active in the arts and activist communities and with the NC Society for Ethical Culture. She attended the AEU Lay Leadership Summer School in 2000 and was accepted for professional Leadership training by the American Ethical Union in 2001. In 2003, she served Carrboro as its first Poet Laureate.

 Above information about Lovelady from: