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Inaugural Juanita Tobin Memorial Reading features poet Shelby Stephenson

shelby_t.jpgBOONE—The inaugural Juanita Tobin Memorial Reading will take place on Thursday, April 1, when poet Shelby Stephenson is featured in Appalachian State University’s Hughlene Bostian Frank Visiting Writers Series. Stephenson will read from his works beginning at 7:30 p.m., in Plemmons Student Union Table Rock Room. He also will present the craft talk “The Craft and the Poem” at 2 p.m. also in Table Rock Room.

Refreshments for the Juanita Tobin Memorial Reading will be provided by Appalachian’s Richard T. Barker Friends of the Library.

When poet Juanita Tobin died in January of 2007, at age 91, family and friends gathered to discuss a way to honor her memory as one of North Carolina’s most beloved poets. As a result, the Juanita Tobin Fund was initiated by Paul and Judy Tobin, the poet’s son and daughter-in-law; and Dr. Alice Naylor, retired Appalachian professor, and long-time friend of Tobin. Their contributions established the annual Juanita Tobin Memorial Reading by a poet of national prominence to be held as part of the Visiting Writers Series.

Friend and mentor to a number of North Carolina poets, Tobin was an intrepid, risk-taking poet – a bit of a legend among her fellow poets across the state. She never turned away from delicate, even explosive, topics; yet she wrote about them with grace, lyricism, inimitable wit and searing language.

Born in Nashville, Tenn., Tobin worked for many years as a nurse at Dorothea Dix Hospital in Raleigh. She spent her later years in Blowing Rock, where she contributed a weekly column to the local paper The Blowing Rocket. She was the author of two critically acclaimed collections of poems, both published by Parkway Publishers: “Ransom Street Quartet: Poems & Stories” and “License My Roving Hands.” Poems from “Ransom Street Quartet,” about her female patients at Dorothea Dix, were adapted into a play called “Dix,” by Catawba College professor poet and playwright Janice Moore Fuller and produced at the Minneapolis Fringe Festival.

Tobin was an active member of the High Country Writers Club and the Boone Unitarian Universalist Fellowship. Some of her work is available from Parkway Publishers on audiotape.

Featured poet Shelby Stephenson grew up on a small farm near Benson, in the Coastal Plain of North Carolina, where he currently resides. “Most of my poems come out of that background,” he says, “where memory and imagination play on one another. I have written many poems about the mules we worked until I was in the seventh grade and, after that–the tractor. My early teachers were the 35 foxhounds my father hunted. The trees and streams, fields, the world of my childhood–all that folklore–those are my subjects.”

Stephenson is professor of English at the University of North Carolina-Pembroke where he has edited Pembroke Magazine since 1979. The state of North Carolina presented him with the 2001 North Carolina Award in Literature. He also has received the Zoe Kincaid Brockman Memorial Award and the Playwright’s Fund of North Carolina Chapbook Prize.

In addition to a poetic documentary, “Plankhouse” (with photographs by Roger Manley), he has published “Middle Creek Poems,” “Carolina Shout!,” “Finch’s Mash,” “The Persimmon Tree Carol,” “Poor People,” “Greatest Hits” and “Fiddledeedee.”

His most recent book, “Family Matters: Homage to July, the Slave Girl,” won the 2008 Bellday Prize. With his wife, Linda, he has also made the CD and cassette “Hank Williams Tribute.”

Parking is available after 5 p.m. on campus. Parking nearest Plemmons Student Union is located in the College Street parking deck next to Belk Library and Information Commons.

The Visiting Writers Series is supported by the Appalachian State University Foundation; Appalachian’s offices of Academic Affairs, Multicultural Student Development, and Cultural Affairs; the College of Arts and Sciences, the Department of English, University College, The Center for Appalachian Studies, the Writing Across the Curriculum program, the Sustainable Development Program, the Summer Reading Program, the University Bookstore, and The Appalachian Journal.

Business sponsors are The Gideon Ridge Inn and The Red Onion Restaurant. Community sponsors include John and Marjorie Idol, Paul and Judy Tobin, Alice Naylor, Thomas McLaughlin, Mildred Luckhardt and The High Country Writers.

The Visiting Writers Series is named in honor of Hughlene Bostian Frank, class of 1968, a trustee and generous supporter of Appalachian State University.

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