Kathryn Stripling Byer –
When she died suddenly from lymphoma in June 2017, Kathryn Stripling Byer had just completed her 7th, and what would be her last, collection of poetry, Trawling the Silences. It is a book of great beauty and heartbreak, revisiting all her important themes – family and ancestry, the natural world, the inevitable process of aging and death, and the pressing issues of environmental degradation, racism, and international conflict – with an urgency that seems, in retrospect, to have come from an awareness about what fate awaited her. Kay loved the craft of poetry and the expressive possibilities of intricate poetic structures. She wrote free verse, metrical verse, syllabic verse, and used forms as diverse as the sestina and the ghazal. Though often dense with meaning and allusion, her work remains accessible to any careful reader.
During her writing career Kathryn Stripling Byer received many honors and awards, including the Lamont prize for her second book, Wildwood Flower, the North Carolina Governor’s Award for Literature, in 2001, and fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts and the North Carolina Arts Council. She was the first woman to be selected as the North Carolina Poet Laureate, and served from 2005 to 2009. In 2012 she was inducted into the North Carolina Literary Hall of Fame.