As a poet laureate, I’m supposed to be spreading my love of poetry far and wide. As someone who is less than enamored with the sound of her own voice, this is a difficult charge for me. However, as I take this position seriously, today I impulsively decided to record a short poetry reading and post it on social media. I selected two poems about winter. The first is, ahem, not mine but by a poet you might recognize. The second is mine, one of my favorites that I wrote last year about this time. The video below is of the impromptu reading I conducted in my bookstore. It’s the first in my series, Poetry Readings, which will be posted on my Instagram account, michellegflye.
It’s hard to put into words exactly what happened yesterday. It was a day full of emotions. A long-anticipated day, actually. In more ways than one.
Yesterday I achieved a dream. I am now the Heart of the Pamlico Poet Laureate. I applied for the position in 2020 but the award was held off due to covid. As it turned out, that was a blessing for me. It allowed me to become more serious about my poetry. It allowed me to accept that I am a poet.
Understand that I do not have a Masters of Fine Arts. I am not a teacher of poetry. Up until 2020 I’d only ever dabbled in poetry. Since then, poetry has become a way of life for me. When a line of poetry flashes into my mind, I follow it. Once upon a time I might have brushed it off. Sometimes these lines become poems.
I’ve always written poetry by feel. Sometimes it rhymes, sometimes it doesn’t. Sometimes I use literary devices like alliteration, sometimes I don’t. The rhythm is almost always instinctive. I’ll go back and rework it until it feels right, but I can’t always tell you why.
My one absolute belief is that poetry comes from the heart. It’s part of me. It’s nonfiction. I write plenty of fiction, so I definitely know the difference. My poetry (at least the poems that work), and all the poetry I’ve ever related to, is nonfiction, a part of my soul that I put out there for the world to accept or reject.
As Heart of the Pamlico Poet Laureate, I’m hoping to spread the word about poetry and its value as an art form. I will do this with pride because I am a poet. I will do this with humility because I am part of a community with so much to say to the world. And I will do it with love because that is what I want to feel coming back to me.
In April 2017, I began writing poetry. As in writing a poem a day for all thirty days of National Poetry Month. I don’t even know why. I had never thought of myself as a poet. I’m not a classically trained one, anyway. My degrees are in journalism and library science. The only things I know about rhyme and rhythm and meter are the little bit I remember from high school—and what I feel in my heart.
Since April 2017, which I now realize was almost three years ago, I have written poetry often, usually to vent something, political or personal. I’ve taught a few elementary poetry classes to kids because I still remember the first time I read e.e. cummings’s “in just—” and I wanted to share that with them. I’ve read and written poetry for more than one voice, which is not something I learned in school. I’ve played with rhyming and not rhyming, sometimes in the same poem. I’ve written prose poetry and limericks and haiku. (Haiku, done properly, is much harder than you might think.)
Last year, I published a little booklet of my poetry because a friend had passed away and I wanted to dedicate something beautiful to her memory. I chose fourteen of my favorite poems, formatted them with some of my photography and sent them off to a printer. I have given away more of those booklets than I’ve sold (it’s only available at my bookstore).
And that’s what poetry is to me, really. It’s meant to share. I’m more than happy to charge you $9 for one of my romances, but poetry, to me, is something different. Most of what I write goes on my blog, if I think it’s any good. I’ve only ever tried to submit it to poetry magazines or contests once or twice, more because I wanted to share with a wider audience than anything.
So, you might imagine my surprised delight when I was notified yesterday that I am a finalist for the title of 2020 Heart of the Pamlico Poet Laureate. This means I have the opportunity to present my poetry and my view of poetry to an audience at the historic Turnage Theatre in less than a month. I’m thrilled, rattled, uncertain, ecstatic and pretty sure the selection committee sent the email to the wrong person, but at the same time, I’m gonna go for it. This is a huge honor for me, as well as the opportunity to express my love for this art form.
Wish me luck.