NC Poet Laureate Jaki Shelton Green and Artist Judith Ernst Commemorate 100-Year Anniversary of Yeats Poem
UNC Global Affairs
Collaborative sculpture by Judith Ernst, artist, and Jaki Shelton Green, the 2019 NC Poet Laureate.
On October 9, North Carolina poet Jaki Shelton Green and ceramic artist Judith Ernst will be featured at an event at the FedEx Global Education Center at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill to recognize the 100th anniversary of W.B. Yeats’ iconic poem “The Second Coming.”
Programming will begin with a reception at 7:00 p.m. followed by remarks at 7:30 p.m. The event is sponsored by UNC Global and co-organized by the Center for European Studies and Global Relations.
Green will deliver a poetry reading following an unveiling of a vessel by Ernst, which will be on display through July 2020. The vessel features an excerpt of a poem by Green in which she responds to the Yeats poem. Katie Bowler Young, director of global relations, will deliver welcoming remarks.
Inspiration for the Collaboration
Judith Ernst has been an artist since she began painting at the age of 12, but it was not until 2002 when she began her journey in pottery and deepened her interest in vessels.
“I was thinking conceptually about the vessel form and what it meant,” she said. She was intrigued by how the significance of vessels lies both inside and outside the vessel, what is revealed to the world and what is held within.
“The inside,” says Ernst, “is always a mystery because you don’t see it. The walls of my vessels always go around and up to the small opening at the top, implying that entering the vessel is entering into the mystery, the parts unseen.”
She saw a connection between her interest in vessels and the Yeats poem, and wanted to find a way to celebrate its anniversary. Ernst turned to Jaki Shelton Green, the first African American Poet Laureate for North Carolina and a professor of documentary poetry in the Center for Documentary Studies at Duke University.
Green was also fascinated by vessels and related metaphors–one reason why the pair were a great match for the project. “I started thinking about how language could fit inside of a vessel and how language really is inside the metaphorical sense of a vessel,” says Green. “Our bodies, the earth itself, they are continually creating vessels that carry our language, which carry messages. So Judith’s rendition, creating this space for language, really resonated with me.”
In their initial meeting, Green and Ernst discussed the project and the original poem at great lengths. Oft-quoted lines such as “Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;” and “Slouches towards Bethlehem,” illustrate the somber, dystopian tones of the poem, which emulated the disarray following World War I. Inspired by these phrases, Ernst hoped to transform the poem into one with a more unifying message. “At a time when we are all feeling unsure if the center’s going to hold,” says Ernst, “I wanted to have something be an assertion of our community values that we can hold together.”
With that idea in mind, Green crafted a new poem by taking famous phrases from Yeats’ poem and writing them into new meaning. She will read the poem, and others, at the event at the FedEx Global Education Center on October 9, 2019.
Event contact: Ingrid Smith, manager of global events and exhibitions, firstname.lastname@example.org
Media contact: Katie Bowler Young, director of Global Relations, email@example.com
December 5, 2023