Cathy Smith Bowers: New NC Poet Laureate

by Elizabeth Lutyens, Editor in Chief

As North Carolina’s new Poet Laureate, Cathy Smith Bowers has her work cut out for her. There are requirements for the state’s head poet, but Cathy has added one of her own: “I want to shine a light on the writers of North Carolina,” she says. “Not just poets, but all of our state’s wonderful writers.”  Over the next two years, she will do “a lot of traveling—speaking and doing readings,” and the whole time she will serve as “a link between writers and communities.”

In announcing the appointment, Governor Bev Purdue said, “Cathy’s powerful poems open new avenues of thought, and are a reflection of the love of words and learning.  She believes poetry inspires and instructs North Carolinians of all ages.”

Cathy Smith Bowers

Cathy Smith Bowers

Cathy also believes in spreading the glory. At the induction ceremony in Raleigh’s State Capitol on February 10, Cathy enjoyed the moment of having the Laureate’s laurel wreath on her head (“I felt mythological,” she says) and then placed it on the head of each of the other writers in attendance. Among those present were students from Cathy’s Great Smokies Writing Program poetry classes. She continues to teach in this program, at UNC Asheville’s Kellogg Center, Hendersonville, and in the MFA program at Queens University in Charlotte.

Among other honors, Cathy has also received the 2002 J.B. Fuqua Distinguished Educator Award from Queens University, and the Gilbert-Chappell Distinguished Poet Award given by the North Carolina Poetry Society in 2006 and 2007. She is the author of four poetry collections: The Love That Ended Yesterday in Texas, Texas Tech University Press, 1992; Traveling in Time of Danger, Iris Press, 1999; A Book of Minutes, Iris Press, 2004; The Candle I Hold Up To See You, Iris Press, 2009.