Poets Council

As Jay Bryan's vision for poetry in Carrboro came to fruition—and grew, it became apparent that he needed reinforcements.  Jay solicited poets to become part of the Carrboro Poets Council which had been approved by the Arts Committee in 2010.

 Carrboro Poets Council assumed responsibility for Carrboro Day in 2011.  Jay and others, including then poet laureate, Celisa Steele, initiated Poetry in the Round,  where poets sat in a circle and read one poem.  When each poet in the circle read a poem, they could either read a second poem or just listen.

 The Carrboro Poets Council began soliciting poems from youth in the Chapel Hill-Carrboro School System and community and establishing a Youth Poetry Contest with the help of poet Susan Spalt.  One contest resulted in 135 poems submitted for Jay and Susan Spalt to choose from.

Current Members

Paul Jones is no longer a person of interest according to several three letter agencies. This, despite his having had a manuscript of poems crash into the moon’s surface in 2019 carried by Israel’s Beresheet Lander. In the fall of 2021, Jones was inducted into the NC State Computer Science Hall of Fame. His book, Something Wonderful, was published by Redhawk Press in 2021. Recently, Jones has published poems in Hudson Review, Tar River Poetry, NC Literary Review, as well as in anthologies including Best American Erotic Poems (1800-Present). Learn more at www.smalljones.com.

Gideon Young is a member of the Carolina African American Writers’ Collective, a Fellow for A+ Schools of North Carolina, a K-12 Literacy Specialist, and a stay-at-home dad. His debut haiku collection my hands full of light was published by Backbone Press (2021) and his poetry is included in Best Spiritual Literature 2022 (Orison Books). Gideon is co-author of One Window’s Light: A Collection of Haiku, published by Unicorn Press, 2017, winner of the Haiku Society of America Merit Award for Best Anthology. Find recent work in the Journal of Black Mountain College Studies, North Carolina Literary Review, and Our State Magazine. Winner of a 2023 Arts in Education Artist Residency Grant from the North Carolina Arts Council, discover more at www.gideonyoung.com.

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).

Susan Spalt has lived in Carrboro since 1984 and is now retired after a long career in School Health. Her love of poetry led her to join the Poets Council and she has worked with the Council for many years and with many people—always with the goal of making poetry something everyone can enjoy. She is the co-author of Finding Hope, a book on mental illness and the author of a memoir, Back When We Were Italian. Her first chapbook was Longer if Its raining and her second chapbook, Naked Ladies Bloom in Autumn, was just published in late 2022 by Plan B Press. 

Liza Wolff-Francis is the 8th Poet Laureate of Carrboro, North Carolina and she has an M.F.A. in Creative Writing from Goddard College. Her essay “Exploring Ecopoetry: Changing Definitions” was published by Valparaiso University. Her writing has been widely anthologized and her work has most recently appeared in The Phare, Silver Birch Press, Wild Roof Journal, SLAB, and eMerge magazine. She has also written poetry book reviews that have been published on Adroit, Compulsive Reader, and LitPub. She is also a clinical social worker. Learn more at www.lizawolff.com .

Chad Knuth is a writer of many hats, from poet to food eroticist. He is forever a passionate film photographer, and will forever be a student of life. After earning a BFA in Filmmaking from UNC School of the Arts, Chad spent several years living in both New York City and Los Angeles where he worked in the entertainment industry before returning to his home state of North Carolina to focus on further developing his writing. His poetry has been featured most recently in Digest Magazine. 

Fred Joiner served as the Carrboro Poet Laureate until the end of this last year, from 2019- 2022. In 2019 Fred was an  Academy of American Poets Laureate Fellow.  His work has appeared in Callaloo, Gargoyle, and Fledgling Rag, among other publications. Fred 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. Most recently, 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. Learn more at www.fredjoiner.com.

Dr. Abigail Browning currently works as a researcher in Raleigh, NC. A driven team builder with over 15 years of teaching and management experience. She earned her Bachelor’s in English at Vanderbilt University where she received the Merrill Moore Poetry Award and then earned an MFA in Creative Writing from UNC-Greensboro and a PhD in Communication, Rhetoric, and Digital Media Studies from NC State University. Browning is a poet, community arts organizer, and literary podcast host. She has poems either published or forthcoming in the Yemassee Journal OnlineThe Greensboro Review, Linebreak, and RHINO Poetry. In addition, she was honored to receive the Amon Liner Poetry Award, the Noel Callow/Academy of American Poets’ Prize, and was a finalist for the Linda Flowers NC Arts Prize. Abigail is also an international swing dancer, choreographer, DJ, and instructor. Learn more at www.abigailbrowning.com .

Former Members

alex benedict is from Ohio's Cuyahoga Valley. In 2021, alex founded betweenthehighway press. Currently, he is a tutor at UNC's Writing Center and is completing an honors thesis on North American Buddhist poetry, focusing on Cleveland poet d.a.levy. 

Davis Lensch is a Junior at Chapel Hill High School, expected to graduate in 2024, and lives in Chapel Hill, North Carolina. He loves writing poetry, writing songs, listing to a lot of Lana Del Rey’s music, playing guitar and keyboard, singing in a rock band, performing in plays, scuba diving, hosting the Podcast Reptile Rambles, posting to Tik Tok, caring for his amphibians and reptiles, and hanging out with friends and his cat named Billie.