Fiddledeedee by Shelby Stephenson
"Shelby Stephenson can walk out his back door—even in his sleep, it seems, so tithed to the land is his subconscious—and see what lies hidden before our very eyes: in the roods and plowsoles, the tree bark and creek beds, in his beloved spectre ancestors forever singing in his head. He writes about the mystery of the dirt—what it yields, what it reclaims—with more precision and prescience than any poet I can think of. I can hear him now, whispering his sacramental litany, his invocation: 'it is nothing but a song—the long journey home.' Fiddledeedee is Shelby at his best. Blessed be his wholly liturgical verse—the bard, the very voice, of North Carolina."
—Joseph Bathanti, former Poet Laureate of North Carolina
"I am very moved by Fiddledeedee, by the accumulating strength of its forward movement as well as by telling details, of the natural and spiritual world."
—A.R. Ammons, winner of the 1973 and 1993 National Book Award for Poetry
“'What can we do but sing?' Shelby Stephenson writes in Fiddledeedee. In this long poem, he has enriched and deepened the themes of previous books, among them, Middle Creek Poems, The Persimmon Tree Canal, and Poor People. We often have poems of memory that are rooted in the poet’s rural upbringing in North Carolina, rustic, elegiac, comic, grim. In Fiddledeedee, memories or homage are not an end in themselves. The poet continually seeks to connect who he was with who he is—exploratory riffs that can surprise his understanding—and therefore ours. The result is a compelling poem of meditative complexity that at the same time is poignant, lyrical, and philosophical."
—Merrill Leffler, author of Mark the Music
“'Where is the word that holds ALL I am trying to say?' asks Shelby Stephenson in the Prologue to Fiddledeedee. He unleashes a poetic answer that plays and keens, singing its long journey home, immersing us in the living language of a place, the East Carolina flatlands. With three-line stanzas, often breathtaking, Stephenson leads us through the lay of his ancestral land. He gives voice to his place and its people and does so unashamedly, with passion and precision, and, yes, with real country music."
—Kathryn Stripling Byer, former Poet Laureate of North Carolina
Shelby Stephenson lives on the small farm where he was born near Benson, in the Coastal Plain of North Carolina. “Most of my poems come out of that background,” he says, “where memory and imagination play on one another.” Educated at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill, University of Pittsburgh, and the University of Wisconsin-Madison, he is professor emeritus at the University of North Carolina-Pembroke, and served as editor of the international literary journal Pembroke Magazine from 1979 until his retirement in 2010. His awards include the Zoe Kincaid Brockman Memorial Award, North Carolina Network Chapbook Prize, Bright Hill Press Chapbook Award, and the Brockman-Campbell Poetry Prize. He has published a poetic documentary Plankhouse (with photographs by Roger Manley), plus ten chapbooks, most recently Steal Away (Jacar Press). Family Matters: Homage to July, the Slave Girl won the 2008 Bellday Poetry Prize and the 2009 Oscar Arnold Young Award. The state of North Carolina presented Shelby with the 2001 North Carolina Award in Literature, and in 2014 he was inducted into the North Carolina Literary Hall of Fame. He will be installed as North Carolina's eighth poet laureate this year.