Shelby Stephenson

NC Poet Laureate
Shelby Stephenson

Cleveland High School staff and students had the pleasure of hosting the 2015 NC Poet Laureate Shelby Stephenson on 4/16/15.  Stephenson was a 1956 graduate of the old Cleveland School and still lives in Johnston County today.

Stephenson, who originally attended law school, has received many awards for his poetry including a 2014 induction into the NC Literary Hall of Fame as well as the aforementioned recent installation as the NC Poet Laureate.

Stephenson held an informal talk with approximately 50 staff and students during lunch in the library.  He shared memories of his high school days, playing basketball, living on a farm, and growing up “on hillbilly music.”  Stephenson specifically connected with two students: one who plans to be a large animal veterinarian (with whom he recited the FFA creed from memory) and one who aims to become a published author.  He impressed upon all in attendance the importance of reading and being open to writing about themselves, their backgrounds, and their families.  Stephenson declared, “I didn’t choose the arts, writing, or teaching.  All of that chose me, really.”

Stephenson then met with several classes for a more formal presentation in the auditorium.  He read excerpts of his work and communicated more of his experiences.  A student was overheard afterwards saying, “One thing I learned is that he sure is a lot smarter than me!”  Stephenson would probably respond that he considers himself the fortunate one because he can share his life stories and inspire others.

Stephenson capped off his visit with an interview for the high school radio station.  That interview can be heard at or through the attached mp3 link. 

Stephenson presented a gift consisting of several of his books and CDs to be added to the school media center collection.  Everyone at CvHS would like to thank Shelby Stephenson for sharing his memories, books, and music!

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