PEMBROKE — Pembroke Magazine, The University of North Carolina at Pembroke’s literary journal, published its 50th annual edition in April and celebrated with a reading by Shelby Stephenson, North Carolina’s poet laureate.
Stephenson served as the magazine’s editor for 32 years.
For Pembroke Magazine’s new editor, Peter Grimes, No. 50 was his first. During the celebration this past week in the Main Reading Room of UNCP’s Livermore Library, he unveiled the newest edition.
“This edition contains poetry, fiction, creative nonfiction, a book review by UNCP faculty member Aaron Cole, an interview with Shelby Stephenson and two of his poems,” Grimes said.
Grimes discussed the early history of Pembroke Magazine, which was the brainchild of Chancellor English Jones, who wanted it to distinguish the growing university. The first edition was published in 1969 with Norman MacLeod as editor.
MacLeod had a national reputation as a poet, and his work was often featured in the fledgling magazine. After nine editions, he left the faculty, and the magazine continued with interim editors until Stephenson was hired to lead the publication and to teach literature and writing.
“I came on at No. 12,” Stephenson said. “To see No. 50, my Lord!”
Most literary journals have either folded or gone online, but Pembroke Magazine continues in print form, he said.
Stephenson, who is in his third year as the state’s poet laureate, read poems from forthcoming and past publications. He has three books of poetry coming out soon.
From rural Johnston County, Stephenson recalled growing up in a plank house with cracks in it so large, “my daddy said you could throw a raccoon through them.” He lives on the home place today and has restored the old house.
“We didn’t have many books in the house, but we had music,” he said.
After singing several Hank Williams tunes, Stephenson closed the Pembroke Magazine event with “Amazing Grace.”
His stint as the state’s poet laureate has taken Stephenson from coast to mountains, and he said he “discovered Murphy twice.” He has accepted every speaking request, even one to 164 middle school students.
About being a poet laureate and editor of Pembroke Magazine for 32 years, Stephenson summed it up by saying, “It’s worth it.”
To obtain a copy of Pembroke Magazine, write to Peter Grimes; Pembroke Magazine; P.O. Box 1510; Pembroke, N.C., 28358. The cost is $10 and checks should be payable to UNC Pembroke.
Staff writer Scott Bigelow can be reached at 910-644-4497 or [email protected]