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U.S. Poet Laureate coming to county March 6 and 7
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PL 22feb18 imageThe Reuben Brown House Preservation Society, in collaboration with Southeastern Community College, will host an evening with Tracy K. Smith, U.S. Poet Laureate and 2012 Pulitzer Prize winner in poetry for "Life On Mars.”

The event will be held Tuesday, March 6 at 7 p.m. in the auditorium at SCC, with a reception and book signing to follow. The public is invited and admission is free.

The event is being held in recognition of the RBHPS poetry contest that Susan Wood started 25 years ago for students K-12 and college, with the assistance of Mary Wyche Mintz, Melba Wyche, Gene Claire Gault, Vernon Hall and Hilda Ray. An annual awards ceremony is held after the judging to recognize the students by publishing their poems and photos in The News Reporter.

Smith will work with all seventh graders in the county March 7 in Bowers Auditorium. She will also teach a small master class for 20 to 25 high school students who have shown an interest and have talent in poetry and will also have a master class at the Columbus County Arts Council building.

Libraries at middle and high schools, Southeastern Community College and the DREAM Center will get copies of the poet laureate’s latest book, "Life on Mars.”

Smith was appointed the 22nd United States Poet Laureate in 2017.

The A.R. Ammons Poetry Contest honors Columbus County’s esteemed poet who grew up in the New Hope community. Ammons graduated from Whiteville High School, joined the U.S. Navy and wrote poetry when he was aboard a destroyer. He graduated from Wake Forest with a biology degree. He also attended the University of California in Berkeley and earned a business degree and a master’s in English and creative writing.

While working at Cornell University, he was a Goldwin Smith Professor of English and Creative Writing. He was at Cornell for 39 years, won dozens of awards and two National Book Awards. He was named a McArthur Fellow and was recognized as one of the most signifi cant poets of the 20th Century. An article in Harper’s Magazine, the New Yorker and New York Times featured Ammons’ poetry last fall and two volumes of his work were released in December.

Ammons never forgot his rural life in Columbus County and often wrote poems about places such as New Hope, Hallsboro, Lake Waccamaw and about alligators and other things of interest.

While talking about U.S. Poet Laureate Tracy K. Smith coming to rural Columbus County and A.R. Ammons having grown up here, Pat Ray noted that there are similarities between the two that include strong family support and growing up in small towns. Ray paid tribute to Susan Wood, who started the A.R. Ammons Poetry Contest for students of all ages.

Kelly Jones of the Columbus County Schools, Arts Council Director Sally Mann and Beverly Turner of Whiteville City Schools have worked together in preparation for the poet laureate’s visit. David and Donna Scott of Lake Waccamaw will be her drivers, and will be "Driving Miss Tracy” instead of Miss Daisy. Terry and Ginger Littrell will host her at Weaver’s Landing, their bed and breakfast at Lake Waccamaw.

After completing undergraduate work at Harvard, Smith earned her MFA at Columbia University before going on to be a Stegner Fellow in Poetry at Stanford University from 1997-99. She is the Roger S. Berlind ’52 Professor in the Humanities, and director of the creative writing program at Princeton University. She spent time at Stanford as a poetry consultant and earned her Ph. D at Princeton University where she was a professor and director of creative writing for 10 years.

"Her work travels the world and takes on its voices; brings history and memory to life; calls on the power of literacy as well as science, religion and pop culture,” said Librarian of Congress Carla Hayden. "With directness and deftness, she contends with the heavens or plumbs our inner depths – all to better understand what makes us most human.”

She now lives in Princeton, N.J. with her husband and children, but previously lived in Fairfield, Calif., where she graduated from high school. She is the youngest of five children, and is 12 years younger than her closest sibling, so she pretty much grew up as an only child. Her mother was a school teacher and her father was an engineer who spent 27 years in the Air Force and worked on the Hubble Telescope in Silicon Valley. Her mother, a woman of faith, was her strongest influence and she was encouraged at a very early age to read a lot.

Smith’s books will be available for sale at The News Reporter and the Columbus County Arts Council building for $12 each.  For more information, visit www.reubenbrownhouse.com  or call 910-770-1078.

By Stuart High and Clara Cartrette

Article and Images Courtesy of and as Published February 22, 2018 in The News Reporter www.NRColumbus.com

The Reuben Brown House Preservation Society is an IRS Code 501(c)(3) charitable organization. Contributions to the RBHPS are fully tax-deductible for federal income tax purposes.

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