North Carolina Poetry Society History – 1932-1972

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This history was originally published in 1992 in a now out-of-print booklet by the then Publications Editor, Ray Dotson, entitled History of the North Carolina Poetry Society, Inc. 1932 – 1992.

Compiled by Christine Sloan

The first section of this history was prepared in 1972 by Christine Sloan. at the request of the 1972-73 president, Betty Daly. Appreciation is expressed to the following long-standing members for their valuable assistance: Zoe Kincaid Brockman, Charlotte Young, Mary Louise Medley, and Sallie Nixon. Special appreciation goes to Carolyn Kyles whose help with the verification and editing of the manuscript was indispensable.

  • Organized in Charlotte, North Carolina – 1932
  • Constitution and Bylaws adopted – 1933
  • Constitution and Bylaws revised and adopted – 1968-1969
  • Incorporated December 7, 1966

The North Carolina Poetry Society was organized in Charlotte at the home of Edna Wilcox Talley, with six members present. Membership was offered to North Carolina writers whose poetry measured up to standards set by the Society. Zoe Kincaid Brockman of Gastonia, well known poet and woman’s editor of the Gastonia Gazette, was the organization’s first president.

For a number of years, monthly meetings of workshop type were held. Once a year there was a formal banquet at which a prominent literary person spoke to the group. Most of these early meetings were held in Charlotte.

James W. Atkins, publisher of the Gastonia Gazette, was the Society’s first patron, helping to finance its publication, The North Carolina Poetry Review. This magazine was published for three years by the Society. A complete file of copies may be found in the Gastonia Public Library and in the Pack Library of Asheville. At one time this publication had subscribers in twenty-six states.

As stated in the constitution, the objectives of the Society are to foster the writing of poetry; to bring together in meetings of mutual interest and fellowship the poets of North Carolina; to encourage the study, writing, and publication of poetry; and to develop a public taste for the reading and appreciation of poetry.

At present there are seven types of membership: Regular, Associate, Regular-Sustaining, Associate-Sustaining, Student, Life, and Honorary.

From its beginning, this organization has given awards for excellence in poetry submitted to it. At present (1972) awards are offered in the following categories:

Thomas H. McDill – any subject, any form
Sidney Lanier – any traditional sonnet form
Brotherhood – subject: Brotherhood, any form
Caldwell W. Nixon, Jr. – for children 2-12 years of age
Carl Sandburg – experimental forms
Ogden Nash – light verse
Student – any subject, any form

Contests have been sponsored individually from time to time. Cups and cash awards have been donated by Zoe Kincaid Brockman, Stewart Atkins, and Christine Sloan (Thomas H. McDill category); H. Glen Lanier (Sidney Lanier category); Caldwell W. and Sallie Nixon (Caldwell W. Nixon, Jr., category). Other cash awards have been given by Dorothy Summerow, Emily Councilman, Maud Oaks, Helen Enos Eaton, and Samuel L. and Martha McKay.

In 1965 the Society began the publication of two booklets, Award Winning Poems and Past the Flame of Words (a booklet of brotherhood poems), with covers designed by Esther Skeen. The latter publication was discontinued after the first year, and the brotherhood poems were included each year thereafter in Award Winning Poems.

The following have served as chairmen or managers of contests, or as booklet editors: Varie B. Brusso, Margaret Casselman, Leona Hayes Chunn, Emily Sargent Councilman, Donald A. Coulson, Betty S. Cox, Jean Ring Cude, Betty M. Daly, Carl D. Dockery, Helen Enos Eaton, Lu Overton Edwards, Elizabeth H. Emerson, Howard G. Hanson, Earl H. Hartsell, Geneva Highfill, Carolyne S. Kyles, Glen H. Lanier, Sandra Lynn Lett, S. L. McKay, Mary Louise Medley, Sallie Nixon, Maud R. Oaks, John M. Pipkin, Campbell Reeves, Alice K. Rogers, Joy Durham Rorie, Peggy Ann Leu Shriver, Christine Sloan, Betty W. Stoffel, Sidney Ann Wilson.

An awards meeting is usually held in May following the close of the contests, and for many years a meeting has been held in Raleigh during the Culture Week in December. Other necessary meetings are called at the discretion of the president and the board of directors.

In 1966 the Society’s first anthology, A Time for Poetry, was published by John F. Blair of Winston-Salem. Serving with the president, Sallie Nixon, on a special anthology committee were Charlotte Young, Carolyne Kyles, and Christine Sloan. Thirty-seven of the Society’s members were included in the volume which continues to be favorably received. Judges for the anthology were Mark Van Doren, W. L. Carr, Ralph E. McNees, and Jean Chirusky.

Through the years many outstanding writers have helped in the selection of the award-winning poems and have served as speakers at meetings. Among these have been Edgar Lee Masters (who, while living in Charlotte, was a member of the Society), Archibald Rutledge, Harry Meacham, Sam Ragan, Richard Walser, Guy Owens, Sam Bradley, Sister Mary Kevin, Paul Newman, Thad Stem Jr., Almonte C. Howell, 0. B. Hardison and others.

Because of their vital interest in the Society, many members throughout the state have given freely of their time, effort, and means to further its objectives. Thomas H. McDill, minister of the First Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church of Gastonia, served as president for many years, helping to keep the Society active when some other organizations were unable to function because of war conditions.

At different times the Society has honored James Larkin Pearson, one of its long-standing members and Poet Laureate of North Carolina. Readings from his books have been given, and he has been awarded special plaques in recognition of his contribution to poetry.

October 15 has been proclaimed as Poetry Day in North Carolina by several governors. In 1970 John M. Pipkin’s poem for Poetry Day was included in Award Winning Poems.

The Society is an affiliate of:
The North Carolina Literary and Historical Association
The Poetry Council of North Carolina
The National Federation of Poetry Societies
The Academy of American Poets

The Society’s permanent address is Archives Building, Raleigh, N.C. The current address is that of the president.

As stated in the constitution, no member of the Society shall profit financially from any of its activities. In the event of dissolution of the Society, all remaining assets, after discharge of any indebtedness, shall become the property of the North Carolina Literacy and Historical Association, Inc., for the purpose of promoting poetry in North Carolina.

Since its inception, the Society has grown to an organization with members in 64 towns and cities throughout North Carolina and seven other states. At present there are 151 members scattered from Fontana Dam to Beaufort.

It is interesting to note the varied occupations of the Society’s membership. Through the years it has included ministers, physicians, professors, teachers, planters, writers, business men and women, nurses, housewives and students. The urge to sing is felt at times in almost every heart.