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210 Pittsboro Street
Campus Box 6210
Chapel Hill, NC 27599-6210

T 919-962-2091
F 919-962-2279

News Release

For immediate use 

Sept. 23, 2005 -- No. 443

Local angles: Canton, Durham,
Hendersonville, Greensboro; Naples, Fla.

Photo: To download a photo, see end of story.

Poet Fred Chappell to present 
Thomas Wolfe Lecture Oct. 6

College of Arts and Sciences

CHAPEL HILL -- North Carolina poet and author Fred Chappell will receive the sixth annual Thomas Wolfe Prize and deliver a free public lecture Oct. 6 at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Chappell, North Carolina Poet Laureate from 1997 to 2002, will speak at 7:30 p.m. in the Morehead Banquet Hall, on the second floor of the Morehead Building off East Franklin Street.

Born in Canton, in the North Carolina mountains near Asheville, Chappell has written some 30 books of poetry, fiction and critical commentary and won dozens of literary prizes.

North Carolina novelist and short story writer Lee Smith calls Chappell "our resident genius, our shining light."

Now retired after 40 years as an English professor at UNC-Greensboro, Chappell won the O. Max Gardner Award in 1986, the highest faculty award bestowed by the University of North Carolina system.

His awards for writing include the Sir Walter Raleigh Prize, North Carolina’s highest literary honor for fiction; the Best Foreign Book Prize from the Academie Francaise; the Bollingen Prize in Poetry from Yale University; the Appalachian Writers Lifetime Achievement Award; the Southeastern Booksellers Association Prize for best novel and best poetry; and the North Carolina Award for Literature.

He has won the Roanoke-Chowan Poetry Award eight times. The annual prize from the North Carolina Literary and Historical Association honors the best volume of poetry by a North Carolina resident. In 1994, Chappell was awarded the Order of the Long Leaf Pine, a prestigious state honor that recognizes North Carolinians for outstanding public service.

Marianne Gingher, an associate English professor in the creative writing program at UNC-Chapel Hill, is a former student of Chappell’s.

"Fred Chappell was simply the best teacher I ever had: surprising, erudite, vastly read, generous with his time, truthful, patient, funny and kind," she said. "Throw in that he was a poet and writer of the highest calibre and those of us lucky enough to sit in his classes were dumbstruck with wonder.

"I learned things from him that I didn’t even know I was learning," Gingher said. "I learned about thoughtful, measured criticism – both taking it and giving it. I learned that there is no single right way to write anything, that there are better ways and more provocative ways, but that one’s mind must remain nimble and free of preconceptions."

As poet laureate, Chappell visited some 250 schools, colleges, universities, retirement homes, churches and other venues in North Carolina. He also wrote many poems upon request for public functions, such as the inaugurations of university chancellors and presidents, the openings of new public buildings and the retirements of local officials.

Chappell’s latest books of poetry are "Backsass" (2003) and "Companion Volume" (2002); his latest novel is "Look Back All the Green Valley" (1999). Four different books have been written analyzing his poetry and fiction.

Chappell received bachelor’s and a master’s degrees from Duke University. The Thomas Wolfe Prize and Lecture honor the memory of North Carolina’s most famous writer, a 1920 graduate of UNC and author of "Look Homeward, Angel." The annual lecture is sponsored by the Morgan Writer-in-Residence Program, the Thomas Wolfe Society and the English department in the College of Arts and Sciences. Alumnus Ben Jones III, of Hendersonville and Naples, Fla., funded the medals and gave prize money for the annual award.

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English department contact: Susan Irons, (919) 962-4283,
College of Arts and Sciences contact:
Kim Weaver Spurr, (919) 962-4093,
News Services contacts:
L.J. Toler, (919) 962-8589