Poetry News

In Memory of Kathryn Stripling Byer (1944–2017)

By Harriet Staff

Kathryn Stripling Byer

We're saddened to hear that poet Kathryn Stripling Byer has died at the age of 72 from lymphoma. Byer, who taught at UNC-Greensboro, Lenoir-Rhyne University, and Western Carolina University, served as the state's first female poet laureate. "Byer published a half-dozen books and hundreds of poems over the years, earning induction into the North Carolina Literary Hall of Fame in 2012," David Menconi writes in a obituary published by the News & Observer. Let's catch up with Menconi's article there:

"Other accolades include an NEA Fellowship, the Thomas Wolfe Literary Award and the North Carolina Award in Literature in 2001.

“She really was at the top of the game,” said Durham poet/publisher Richard Krawiec. “I thought she should have been the first U.S. Poet Laureate from the South. She had incredible language and a gift for imagery, using elements of her life and what she witnessed around her. But it was not narrowly about just her. There was always a larger context on many levels – social, philosophical, political – that came through in her work. It’s what made her such a great poet.”

Byer was a tireless champion of other poets throughout her career, which made her a fitting choice for North Carolina’s first woman Poet Laureate. Appointed in 2005 by then-Gov. Mike Easley, she spent her four-year term turning what had been a largely ceremonial position into one of advocacy.

“I don’t think she gets enough credit for changing the Poet Laureate position as much as she did,” Krawiec said. “She became a true people’s Poet Laureate, with a website blog where she would highlight as many other poets as she could. She really was an activist about sharing the work of other North Carolina writers.”

Continue reading at News & Observer.

Originally Published: June 9th, 2017