Chapel Hill Celebrates Poetry Month With Participatory Experiences, Led By Poet Laureate

April 5, 2023

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The Town of Chapel Hill is celebrating National Poetry Month with an abundance of events and opportunities to engage with poetry and art throughout April. The experiences consist of in-person events like an open mic night, as well as exhibits like a new poetry-themed artistic bus shelter. The offerings are being organized by several Town departments including Chapel Community Arts & Culture and Chapel Hill Public Library.

Chapel Hill Poet Laureate Cortland Gilliam is coordinating Poetry Month happenings with Community Arts & Culture and Library staff. “National Poetry Month is a great time to open eyes, ears, heart, and consciousness to the breadth and richness of poetry in our community and daily lives. I think poetry is active and all around us if we still ourselves long enough to notice and engage,” says Gilliam. “Each program or event is an invitation to join into this work of collective witnessing, vulnerability, and action. And I hope folks accept!”

The community is invited to get inspired and engage with poetry by experiencing one of the many offerings this month.

Black Out Poetry Display
Chapel Hill Public Library

Participate in an interactive Blackout poetry display available now through the end of April on the main floor of the library. Blackout poetry is made by crossing out words, sentences, or paragraphs from found texts like newspaper or book pages, leaving behind words that form a poem. Using recycled library book pages, visitors can create their own poems, then share their work on the display for the community to see. Participants are encouraged to share their poems on social media.

Art + Transit Poetry Bus Shelter
South Road at Fetzer Gym on UNC-Chapel Hill’s campus

Cortland Gilliam collaborated with former Poet Laureate CJ Suitt to write a poetic display honoring the words and legacy of poet legend George Moses Horton. The poets worked with graphic artist Wutang to design an artistic display of the poem to be unveiled on a Chapel Hill Transit shelter located near UNC-Chapel Hill’s Frank Porter Graham Student Union. The installation will occur later this month.

The Poet Is a Verb: Local Poetry & Open Mic Night
Chapel Hill Public Library | Thursday, April 27, 6 – 8 p.m.

Experience poetry and community at “The Poet is a Verb: Local Poetry & Open Mic Night” at Chapel Hill Public Library hosted by Cortland Gilliam with special guests CJ Suitt, Nina Oteria, Blaine Purcell, DS Will, Johnny Lee Chapman III, and Mariah M. Learn more here.

Chapel Hill Creatives Cypher
Hargraves Community Center | Friday, April 28, 6 – 8 p.m.

Bring your beats, bars, poems, instruments, and art supplies to create alongside other artists in a collective space. A cypher is a gathering of people sharing thoughts, experiences, stories, and art through the oral tradition of rap, poetry, or singing over music. The cypher circle is for expressing yourself, healing, release, and community building.

In addition to Town-organized happenings, Cortland will also be reading and speaking at many events throughout Orange County. Additional appearances include:

Visit Chapel Hill Community Arts & Culture’s Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter to follow along with Poetry Month happenings. To learn more about the Chapel Hill Poet Laureate program visit To learn more about Chapel Hill Public Library, visit