Thursday, December 3, 2009

Lincoln County Youth Named NC Student Poet Laureate

“Musings” for December 3, 2009

Every semester for the 20 or so years that I’ve taught poetry at the middle school, high school and college levels, I’ve had the experience where a student has written a wonderful poem and then announced that they really didn’t know much about poetry and never thought they would write it. For a poetry lover like myself, it is always one of the most gratifying moments of the semester to see that poetry remains accessible and relevant even to those who initially resist it.

Apparently, I’m not alone in this experience. Recently, Ms. Lydia Dunn, who teaches English at West Lincoln Middle School in nearby Lincolnton, was notified by NC Poet Laureate, Kathryn Stripling Byer, that her student, Christopher J. (CJ) Murphy, had won the 2009 NC Student Poet Laureate Award sponsored by the NC English Teachers’ Association (NCETA). According to an article by Sarah Grano in the Lincoln Times-News, CJ had never really thought much about poetry and despite winning this competition still didn’t see himself as a writer.

While Murphy might not have recognized his own talent or the power of poetry to help one see things more clearly, Byer and fellow judge John York did. In fact, in First Light, the competition’s anthology, Byer writes, “C.J. Murphy’s Where I Come From stood out for all the reasons good poetry sticks in the mind: imagery that opens up the world in which it’s set, a voice that knows how to journey through that place with knowledge and humor.”

I offer my congratulations to Murphy and my thanks for allowing us to reprint his winning poem here. I also offer my gratitude to Byer, Dunn, and NCETA for continuing to help students discover the wealth of possibilities that exist in the practice of poetry. Founded by Byer and NCETA in 2007, the Student Laureate Award features high school and middle school categories with top prize of $250 in each. For more information, please visit the NCETA website at

Where I Come From

I come from the smell of
Fresh cut grass on an old dirt road, off
a two-lane black top.
Old lawn mowers shade the yard.
A squirrel dashes up an oak tree
in a stream of smoke and lead.
Grandma with a basket full of eggs,
Grandpa and Dad working,
Sharing a spit cup, working
In the old tin building,
Uncle Mike tuning his Camaro,
Cousin Hannah, drinking a Nehi,
watching the chickens picking the ground.

My cousin Johnnie and me in the tree stand
in the old pasture by the creek,
watching the field like a hawk
through the scope of an ought-two-seventy.
(But when Mom yells “Supper’s ready!” we
Hop in the pickup with chicken and
blackberry pies on our minds.)
I walk in with mud on mud on my boots
And Mom says, “What? Were you raised in a barn?”
But after lunch, dressed up and armed
With Bibles, we hop in the truck
And head for evening service.)

1 comment:

  1. i remember reading this on kay's blog and thinking it was fantastic. Congrats to him!