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Kathryn Stripling Byer (November 25, 1944 – June 5, 2017), also called Kay Byer, was an American poet and teacher. She was named by Governor Mike Easley as the fifth North Carolina Poet Laureate from 2005–09. She was the first woman to hold the position.

Kay Byer
Byer Accepting an award from the North Carolina Literary Hall of Fame in 2012
Byer Accepting an award from the North Carolina Literary Hall of Fame in 2012
BornKathryn Stripling
(1944-11-25)November 25, 1944
Camilla, Georgia, U.S.
DiedJune 5, 2017(2017-06-05) (aged 72)
Cullowhee, North Carolina, U.S.
Alma materWesleyan College, B.A.
UNC-Greensboro, M.F.A.
GenrePoetry, essays
Notable awardsNorth Carolina Poet Laureate
SpouseJim Byer



Early life and educationEdit

Kathryn Stripling was born in Camilla, Georgia in 1944. Her parents were C.M. Stripling, a farmer, and his wife, Bernice (née Campbell) Stripling.[1]

She went on to graduate with a bachelors in English from Macon, Georgia's Wesleyan College[2][3] and then received her M.F.A. from the University of North Carolina at Greensboro, where she studied under Allen Tate, Fred Chappell, and Robert W. Watson.[4] During this time at UNC-G, Byer decided to move to the mountains of North Carolina.[1]


After receiving her M.F.A., Byer became poet-in-residence at Western Carolina University, 1988–98, as well as UNC-G in 1995 and Lenoir-Rhyne College in 1999.[1] She has published six full collections of poetry as well as some chapbooks. Her most recent collection is Descent published in 2012 by Louisiana State University Press.[5]

Poet laureateshipEdit

In 2005, North Carolina Governor Michael Easley appointed Byer to be the state's fifth poet laureate following Fred Chappell whose term ended in 2002. She was the first woman to hold the position.[6]

As part of her outreach program during her term as poet laureate, Byer maintained "My Laureate's Lasso", a blog that focused on North Carolina poets and poetry.[7] She was also the judge for the North Carolina Poetry Society's Poet Laureate Award.[8][9]

Personal lifeEdit

Kathryn Stripling Byer was married to Western Carolina University professor Jim Byer. They had one daughter and last lived in Cullowhee, North Carolina.[1]


Kathryn Stripling Byer died at the age of 72 in Cullowhee on June 5, 2017 from lymphoma.[citation needed]


Some of Byer's poetry appeared in, among other periodicals, The Carolina Quarterly, The Georgia Review, The Hudson Review, The Iowa Review, Poetry, and The Southern Review.[3] Her work often dealt with lives and hardships of western North Carolina mountain inhabitants, especially women, in earlier generations.[4]


Byer's books include:[3][5]

  • The Girl in the Midst of the Harvest (1986), Associated Writing Programs award series
  • Wildwood Flower (1992)
  • Black Shawl (1998)
  • Catching Light (Louisiana State University Press, 2002)
  • Wake (chapbook, 2003)[4]
  • Coming to Rest (Louisiana State University Press, 2006)
  • The Movable Nest: A Mother/Daughter Companion as co-editor with Kallet, Marilyn (Helicon Nine Editions, 2007)
  • Southern Fictions (sonnet chapbook; Jacar Press, 2011)
  • Descent (Louisiana State University Press, 2012)


Some of Byer's most notable essays include:[1]

  • "Turning the Windlass at the Well: Fred Chappell's Early Poetry" in Dream Garden: The Poetic Vision of Fred Chappell (1997)
  • "Deep Water" in Bloodroot: Reflections on Place by Appalachian Women Writers (1998)

Awards and honorsEdit


  1. ^ a b c d e Prestridge, Sam. "Kathryn Stripling Byer (b. 1944)". The New Georgia Encyclopedia. Georgia Humanities Council and the University of Georgia Press. Retrieved November 8, 2012.
  2. ^ "Raleigh ceremony to celebrate Byer's selection as poet laureate". The Sylva Herald and Ruralite. June 9, 2005. Retrieved November 8, 2012.
  3. ^ a b c "Kathryn Stripling Byer". Academy of American Poets. Retrieved November 8, 2012.
  4. ^ a b c Eubanks, Georgann (2007). Literary Trails of the North Carolina Mountains. Chapel Hill, North Carolina: University of North Carolina Press. p. 50. ISBN 978-0-8078-5833-2.
  5. ^ a b Vitiello, Chris (October 31, 2012). "Kay Byer, the N.C. Literary Hall of Fame and this weekend's N.C. Writers' Network conference". Independent Weekly. Retrieved November 14, 2012.
  6. ^ "Past North Carolina Poets Laureate". North Carolina Arts Council. Archived from the original on October 27, 2012. Retrieved November 5, 2012.
  7. ^ "My Laureate's Lasso". Kathryn Stripling Byer. Retrieved November 14, 2012.
  8. ^ "Annual Adult Poetry Contest Judges". North Carolina Poetry Society. Archived from the original on June 29, 2009. Retrieved 14 November 2012.
  9. ^ "Adult Contests and Awards". North Carolina Poetry Society. Retrieved November 5, 2012.
  10. ^ "North Carolina Book Awards". North Carolina Department of Cultural Resources. Retrieved November 14, 2012.
  11. ^ "Literature". North Carolina Award recipients. North Carolina Department of Cultural Resources. Retrieved November 14, 2012.
  12. ^ "Past North Carolina Poet Laureates". North Carolina Arts Council.
  13. ^ "North Carolina Literary Hall of Fame Induction Set for October 14". North Carolina Writers' Network. July 12, 2012. Retrieved November 14, 2012.
  14. ^ "North Carolina Literary Hall of Fame 2012 Induction Program". University Library University of North Carolina. October 14, 2012. Retrieved October 13, 2014.

External linksEdit