Kathryn Stripling Byer
Kathryn Stripling Byer answered the call from her feisty grandmother’s memory to come to the mountains when she settled in Cullowhee in 1968. Byer, a native of southwest Georgia, took it upon herself to capture the voices and stories of these strong Southern mountain women who were often marginalized by their harsh circumstances.
She conjures these courageous women by singing their praises in her poetry, weaving the details of their lives in verse, telling us how they made a way out of no way.
“These women voices seemed important,” says Byer, who served as North Carolina’s state poet laureate from 2005 to 2009, speaking at schools and other venues spreading the word about the power of words as well as her popular blog.
“Kathryn Byer’s generosity is as large as her poetic talent,” says award-winning poet Betty Adcock. “North Carolina is lucky indeed that she has spent her adult life here in our mountains. She has given that landscape a woman’s voice, in exquisite poems that weave the strange into the beautiful, the tragic into purist song.
“Kay has given North Carolina poetry, and North Carolina’s mountain landscape, the woman’s voice that had been lacking. Her tenure as our first woman poet laureate has been marked by successful projects that bring poetry to the whole state. She is one of the finest poets writing in the South,” Adcock said.
Byer received the Hanes Award for Poetry from the Fellowship of Southern Writers in March 2007. She’s published five collections of poetry including Wildwood Flower, which won the 1992 Thomas Wolfe Award and the Lamont Prize from the Academy of American Poets.
Byer has also served as poet-in-residence at both Western Carolina University and Lenoir-Rhyne College. She is also a former poetry instructor in the master’s of fine arts Program at UNC Greensboro and has served on the boards for the N.C. Writers’ Network, Writer’s Workshop and The Arts Journal. She’s received writing fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts and the N.C. Arts Council.