2020 Virtual Open Mic

These 22 poets participated in the 2020 festival’s Virtual Open Mic. You can watch them perform on our YouTube playlist or read about them here and click through to their individual performances.

Chris Abbate

To the Man Who Stole My Book at a Book Fair
Chris Abbate’s poems have appeared in Connecticut River Review, Chagrin River Review, Comstock Review, and elsewhere. He has been nominated for the Pushcart Prize and a Best of the Net award, and has received awards in the Nazim Hikmet and North Carolina Poetry Society poetry contests. His first book of poetry, Talk About God, was published by Main Street Rag. He is a database programmer for a pharmaceutical company and since 2009 has served as a volunteer coach for The First Tee of the Triangle golf program. Chris resides in Holly Springs, NC.
@ncpoet    chrisabbate.com

Good poetry makes the reader pay attention. Great poetry makes the reader translate attention into change. ~ Chris Abbate

Jay Bryan

It Has Come to Me
Jay Bryan served as poet laureate of Carrboro from 2010 to 2013. With the Carrboro Arts Committee, he helped to establish the Carrboro Poets Council, on which he currently serves. For 15 years he coordinated poetry readings on Carrboro Day for the town’s celebration of its residents and their gifts. He compiled and edited the Carrboro 100th Birthday Poetry Anthology (2011). His chapbook Selected Poems was published in June 2013 by Finishing Line Press.

Poetry can capture changes in one’s understanding over time. ~ Jay Bryan


Lawrence Bullock II

Caged Bird
A native of Fayetteville, NC. Lawrence “Law” Bullock II is a published author of two poetry books, a spoken word artist having performed around NC as well as surrounding states. Law is also a motivational speaker who is part of Toastmasters International and Let’s Make It Happen Together. Law is also the founder of M.U.G. Photography standing for Magnify, Unify and Glorify. Law was a competing poet at the 2019 Southern Fried Poetry Festival, has competed in several poetry slams around North Carolina, has performed at the Black History Cultural Art Experience, the African American Heritage Festival, the SERNC Poetry Festival, the NAMI CHL Mental Health Showcase, Fayetteville State University and various open mics, youth and men’s conferences.

Poetry builds a bridge through the imagery it paints; opening doors for communication as well as giving a spotlight to the things needed to be focused on in our communities. ~ Law Bullock II

Peter Burian

Peter Burian is a retired classics professor who has translated a number of ancient Greek dramas and poems from Greek and Italian.

Ralph Earle

Ralph Earle

The Somali Refugees on Public Radio
Ralph Earle is a poet and website designer in Cary, North Carolina. For the past 40 years, he has kicked around the outskirts where the literary world meets the world of computers. Although he builds poetry websites, he’s never had much luck writing poetry about the web.

As a father of young men, witnessing so many unjust deaths has moved me to work for systemic change, both in my poetry and in my life. ~ Ralph Earle

Joshua Factor

Joshua Factor is an NC native and lifelong poet who loves reading, writing and being at one with nature.

I think especially in these trying times, my poems speak to many people who are dealing with tribulations and trying to find the strength to go on. ~ Joshua Factor

Jason Gray

Project Faultless
Jason Gray is the author of Radiation King, winner of the Idaho Prize for Poetry, and Photographing Eden, as well as two chapbooks, How to Paint the Savior Dead and Adam & Eve Go to the Zoo. His poems have been featured in Poetry, Kenyon Review, American Poetry Review, Image, and elsewhere.
@jasonmgray      jason-gray.net



Maura High

Wisteria Sinensis, The Wilderness, Choosing a Mask
Maura High is an editor by trade, originally from Wales, who came to Carrboro three decades ago, and has come to feel almost a local. Her strongest ties here are to the natural environment and the community of poets and readers.


Poetry in a sense changes nothing, but it does nurture seeds for change, by opening eyes, hearts, and minds. ~ Maura High


John Hoppenthaler

Great Again
John Hoppenthaler’s books of poetry are Domestic Garden (2015), Anticipate the Coming Reservoir (2008), and Lives of Water (2003), all with Carnegie Mellon UP. His poetry, essays, and interviews have appeared in many journals, anthologies, and textbooks. For Connotation Press: An Online Artifact, he edits “A Poetry Congeries.” He also serves on the Advisory Board for Backbone Press, specializing in the publication and promotion of marginalized voices. Professor of CW and Literature at East Carolina University, he served as Toni Morrison’s Personal Assistant for nine years.
@hoppenthaler      Visit My Website

All the damming has made our waters stagnant. If we tear down the dams, the water will do the work it always has done, to cleanse. ~ John Hoppenthaler


Paul Jones

Ode to a Certain Feeling of Optimism
Paul Jones is a well-known North Carolina poet who serves on the Board of Directors of the NC Poetry Society. He is also vice-president of the NC Writers Network. His poems have appeared in Poetry, Triggerfish Critical Review, Broadkill Review, and anthologies including Best American Erotic Poems (1800 – Present). He was recently nominated for two Pushcart Prizes and two Best of the Web Awards. His chapbook is What the Welsh and Chinese Have in Common. A manuscript of his poems crashed on the moon’s surface on April 11, 2019.
@smalljones      smalljones.com

Even nature poems celebrate changes in life and in seasons, but the speed of change is never even or exactly predictable. We are in the midst of punctuated change and poetry must assist, sooth, and engage with us and with change. ~ Paul Jones


Kelly Jones

No More Waiting to Get Personally Punched in the Face while Ash Falls from the Sky
Kelly is a poet in the Piedmont of North Carolina who works in outreach and education. Three of their favorite things are: manatees, glitter, and Halloween movies from the 90s.

My poem focuses on some of the upheaval caused by events (past and present) that have informed my view of the world and led me to engage with communities working towards change. ~ Kelly Jones


Debra Kaufman

Debra Kaufman is the author of four full-length poetry collections—God Shattered, Delicate Thefts, The Next Moment, and A Certain Light—as well as three chapbooks, four full-length and over three dozen short plays. She lives in Mebane, where she walks every morning.

In these times of living with uncertainty–with the pandemic, and as our planet is at its most vulnerable, and we strive to honor the diversity in our culture–we each can use our voice to be alive in the moment and willing to be vulnerable to the inevitable changes to come. ~ Debra Kaufman


Luisa Elena Kolker

Me, Too
Luisa Elena Kolker is a shamanic teacher, psychotherapist, and writer based in Santa Fe, New Mexico.
@luisakolker     www.luisakolker.com


I’m interested in how the wisdom from our inner depths–informs our cells and our selves in creating change. ~ Luisa Elena Kolker


Leah Elliott Hamilton

“Open Borders” & “the ache of the world”
Leah Elliott Hamilton is an embodied speck of the Tao, born and raised along the borderlands of Arizona and Utah, formally educated in North Dakota, currently residing in North Carolina with her husband, children, stepchildren, and puppies, where she teaches high school English and dreams of the better world we all know must come. She is the author of the poetry volume As If By Magic, and the founder of Raw Organic Poetry.

I’m interested in how the wisdom from our inner depths–informs our cells and our selves in creating change. ~ Leah Elliott Hamilton


Lou Lipsitz

The Loneliness of Men
Lou Lipsitz is a psychotherapist in Chapel Hill, NC. His most recent book was If This World Falls Apart (a title which now seems eerily prescient) and which won the Blue Lynx award in 2010. His work has been widely anthologized and published in numerous journals. His is currently working on poems about his work as a therapist.


Change has been a focus of much of my writing, but the type of change I focused on has changed. In my early poems, written in the 60s, I think my main message was “open your eyes” and “be outraged.” Nowadays my work tends to say, “look inward,” and “go deeper don’t let shame stop you.” ~ Lou Lipsitz


Alice Osborn

Bottom Drawer
Alice Osborn is a poet, writer, singer-songwriter, educator, editor, entrepreneur, and history buff. Heroes without Capes is her most recent poetry collection and Searching for Paradise is her most recent CD of original songs. Previous poetry collections are After the Steaming Stops and Unfinished Projects. President of the NC Songwriters Co-op, Alice serves on the Board of Trustees for the NC Writers’ Network and is a Pushcart nominee. Alice lives in Raleigh, NC, with her husband, two children, and four birds.
@alice_obsorn  www.aliceosborn.com  www.reverbnation.com/aliceosborn

Just showing up and doing your art you can be an agent for change. In these strange times when the world is on fire and hatred is coming at us in all directions, I believe that true change comes from the individual and that when one speaks, others will follow. ~ Alice Osborn


Gary Phillips

Field Peas
Gary Phillips is a poet who lives in Silk Hope, North Carolina, in the first legally permitted rammed earth house in North Carolina. He was the 2016-2018 poet laureate of Carrboro.


Poets are the canary-in-the-coal-mine of our changing circumstances — the earliest to respond, hopefully with enduring and useful words. At our best we move our society away from competitive chatter and toward a more listening world. ~ Gary Phillips


Susan Spalt

Susan Spalt

October Requiem
Susan Spalt is a Carrboro poet who believes poetry is part of everyday life.

Poetry not only brings solace in troubled times–it inspires hope and action when it is most needed. ~ Susan Spalt


Doug Stuber

Genocide, Slavery, Greed
Doug Stuber has written for newspapers and magazines for 42 years, spent six years teaching Continuing Education (creative writing and literature) and seven years teaching at Chonnam National University in South Korea, where he edited the Gwangju News. His art was recently on view in London, Balchick and Varna Bulgaria, Incheon and Tokyo. His poems have appeared in AIM, The Road Not Taken, Kakalak, HazMat Review and many others. His twelfth volume of poetry, Chronic Observer, was published in 2019 by Finishing Line Press.
@dougstuber  @heronclanpoems  dougstuber.wordpress.com

Poetry can reach people who care, and then turn them into volunteers. It also serves as an outlet for people to express their concerns in pubic and reach others who may need a nudge to get involved. It is both therapeutic and instructional. ~ Doug Stuber


Cheryl Wilder

No One Will Ever Love You
Cheryl Wilder is the author of Anything That Happens (Press 53, 2021), a poetry collection that examines a past grave mistake and a future that stretches into one long second chance. Her chapbook What Binds Us appeared from Finishing Line Press in 2017. Her work appears in Barely South Review, Verse Daily, Cream City Review, and Architects + Artisans, among other publications. Cheryl lives near the Haw River in North Carolina, where she gives talks and workshops on art and writing, chairs the Burlington Writers Club student writing contest, and owns a small web development company. She’s a mother of three boys and the wife of one grateful man.

Poetry can address change and change people, which is what makes it so powerful. My poem starts with a woman who lets a man overpower her and ends with her finding strength within herself. ~ Cheryl Wilder


Emily Paige Wilson

Hypochondria, Least Powerful of the Greek Gods
Emily Paige Wilson is the author of the forthcoming full-length collection Jalubí (Unsolicited Press, 2022) and two chapbooks: Hypochondria, Least Powerful of the Greek Gods (Glass Poetry Press, 2020) and I’ll Build Us a Home (Finishing Line Press, 2018). Her work has been nominated for Best New Poets, Best of the Net, and the Pushcart Prize.
@Emmy_Golightly     emilypaigewilson.com

Hypochondria, Least Powerful of the Greek Gods–both my new chapbook and its titular series–use poetry to dismantle the stigma around mental health and health anxiety specifically. ~ Emily Paige Wilson