Springtime in Verse with Carrboro Poet Laureate Liza Wolff-Francis

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Springtime in Verse is a series of blog posts inviting you to learn and gather around poetry with the Ackland. Today’s featured poet is Liza Wolff-Francis, Poet Laureate of Carrboro.

Below you will find three poems written by Liza in waka verse form in celebration of the Museum’s current exhibition, Lotus Moon and Nandina Staff: The Art of Ōtagaki Rengetsu and Nakahara Nantenbō. Follow our blog throughout the month of April to enjoy more original works by celebrated North Carolina poets. We are so pleased to present to you this exhibition and the original poems written by poets from the local community.

Clouds like a blanket
Cover all there is to see
Geese call from above
I too am in fog today
Even when the clouds are gone

Pine trees sway in wind
I’m not even half their size
A branch breaks and falls
Its sound, like a pause in song
Grazing deer begin to run

A cardinal, red
Lands on a branch by his mate
Flits down to wet ground
Flying to a new landing
Strong alone and together

-by Liza Wolff-Francis

Liza Wolff-Francis is a poet and writer with an M.F.A. in Creative Writing from Goddard College. She became Poet Laureate of Carrboro, North Carolina in January 2023. She has an ekphrastic poem published in Austin’s Blanton Art Museum and was co-director for the 2014 Austin International Poetry Festival. Her writing has been widely anthologized and her work has most recently appeared in The Phare, Silver Birch Press, Wild Roof Journal, SLAB, and eMerge magazine. She has written reviews of poetry books that have been published on Adroit, Compulsive Reader, and LitPub. Her chapbook Language of Crossing was published by Swimming with Elephant Publications, 2015.

We invite you to share your own poems inspired by Rengetsu’s and Nantenbō’s artworks on display. In the coming weeks, the Ackland will host several opportunities to gather around poetry writing, recitation, and scholarship.

On Friday, April 14, the Ackland will remain open late until 9:00 p.m. Listen to local poets perform waka poetry, learn to craft your own waka poems, and share your compositions at our open mic. Learn more here:

On Saturday, April 15, the Ackland will host a free, drop-in poetry writing program at Carolina’s Coker Arboretum’s central lawn. Visit any time from 10:30 a.m. – 1:30 p.m. to enjoy the serene landscape and the pleasure of crafting poetry to hang amongst the blossoms. Your poems will remain displayed in the gardens through April 24. Find out more here:

Also on Saturday, April 15, the Ackland will host a one-day public symposium considering the two artists of Lotus Moon and Nandina Staff. The symposium will look at the work of artists Ōtagaki Rengetsu and Nakahara Nantenbō from multiple perspectives, including Japanese Buddhism, the materiality and functions of the work, the role of literature, and the aesthetics of calligraphy. Capacity is limited. Register here:

Lotus Moon and Nandina Staff presents and contrasts the work of two major Japanese artists of the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, taking its title from translations of their names. Ōtagaki Rengetsu (1791-1875) was a Buddhist nun who became very well known as an important poet focusing on the traditional waka verse form, rendering her poems in elegant but strong calligraphy on paper and on ceramics that she often formed herself; Nakahara Nantenbō (1839-1925) was an influential and strict Zen Master famous for his energetically and expressively brushed calligraphy and paintings.