The 2023-24 poet laureate, Liza Wolff-Francis, starts her two-year term and discusses the role, her writing career and why poetry is important
By Katie MacKinnon | Photo by Catherine Lazorko, courtesy of the Town of Carrboro
Liza Wolff-Francis, an award-winning poet and writer, holds a master’s in creative writing from Goddard College and has been featured in many national publications and exhibits. She was selected as Carrboro’s Poet Laureate in October and began her tenure in January.
When did you first start writing?
I think I started writing back when I was probably like 10 or 12 in a Ramona Quimby diary that I got, and I just started kind of answering the questions that they give you. And then as I got to be a teenager, I started writing poetry and enjoying it a little more.
Where do you like to write?
I love to write with other people. I think that’s really fun, and it can be kind of interesting because you’re feeding off of their energy and they’re feeding off of yours. But writing is often a solitary thing. So I have space at home. I have an office that I write in. I have a screened porch that I love to sit on and write. Anywhere that I can just sit down and have my journal and my pen is great.
Why is poetry valuable to the community?
It’s a way to share your voice and also to witness and listen to other people’s voices in a way that helps us get to know [one another]. I think it brings people together. I think poetry is a real integral part of art, music, community, and it really is a way to not only inspire people, but to be inspired and to connect. I think it can promote literacy – really encouraging people not just to learn how to read but to be readers. To be wanting to read and wanting to contribute to the literary world. It can be an outlet for emotions, and it can be a way to share with others and for others to listen to you and be sharing with you as well.
How does your experience as a licensed therapist inform your work as a poet?
I think that I bring kind of a therapeutic lens, even thinking about hope and thinking about the past few years. I think that it’s been a form of trauma that people have experienced, and how can we help them? How can we help one another move through that trauma as a community to find hope, so that we don’t keep having so much fear? I really love working with people to help them be the strongest that they can be. I think that therapy helps with that, and I think that poetry can, too.
What is a common misconception people have about poetry?
If you want to write a poem, you can, and if you need some guidance or some help, we’re going to have some workshops to do that. They say everybody has at least one novel within them, and I would say everybody has probably a gazillion poems within them. But at least one. It can be intimidating, in some ways, but it shouldn’t have to be and I think anybody can write if they want to.
What part of the role are you most excited about?
I’m most excited to get to know new people and to write with them and to hear what they write. I think that everybody has a different voice and everybody has a different poetic voice and things to say, and I would love to hear what other people write. I think the opportunities that I’ll be facilitating for the community are also opportunities for me. I get to go and write with new people that maybe I don’t know yet and people that I do know. Let’s all get together and hang out and do poetry.
‘Weight of Earth’
Tree leaves bend
with the heaviness of rain, mountain
stands by, lets
off. What we do
to each other
day after day
is too much
to hold. Even the earth
cannot soak it in.
– Liza Wolff-Francis
This poem was first published in eMerge Magazine