NC Literary Hall of Fame



Let Go or Hold Fast: Beaufort Poems by Susan Schmidt

Library Partners Press
$10.00, paperback
ISBN: 978-1-618460660
November, 2018
Available from

"In 'Tyranny of Small Decisions,' I applaud her tackling such an important political subject. The language, imagery, line breaks, and shape of the poem are stellar. Susan Schmidt's instincts are on target. It’s so heartbreakingly true. Hardcore evidence cannot be disputed...she knows how to write a poem, strong and accessible."
—Joseph Bathanti, former North Carolina poet laureate

"Let Go or Hold Fast is a rare and engaged page-turner, a journey of passion, endurance, and self-perseverance."
—Phillip Shabazz

Let Go or Hold Fast won the 2018 Gail O’Day Prize of Library Partners Press. A New Testament Scholar and mountain climber, Gail O’Day, who passed away in September of 2018, was Dean of the Wake Forest University School of Divinity. 

In Let Go or Hold Fast, sailboat captain, master gardener, and Quaker naturalist Susan Schmidt celebrates neighbors in her small town—including dolphins, manatees, sharks, herons, egrets, owls, butterflies, ants, bees, possums, snakes, and bears. To give the planet strength to keep rolling, she says, “Make anything creative.” She plants gardens, bakes bread, and cans blueberry jam. As she swims, paddles, rows, and sails in Beaufort, Susan witnesses coastal diversity and resilience, threatened by sea level rise, motorboat wakes, and speeding tourists. Poems comment on the new bridge, potholes, hanging laundry. The newest poem describes Hurricane Florence’s damage, community recovery, and toxic aftermath.

As developmental editor, Susan Schmidt polishes science and history books, novels, and memoirs—listed among Top Ten Editors in New England. She leads a Critique Group in Carteret County. She has had a Coast Guard Captain’s license thirty-six years. She wrote the grant to buy Carrot Island and Bird Shoal in Beaufort for the NC Estuarine Reserve. She has been a professor of literature and environmental decision-making, and a government science-policy analyst. She has a doctorate in American literature and Masters degrees in Environmental Sciences and British lit. She read literature at Oxford and, postdoc, studied bioethics and environmental mediation.

To witness natural diversity, she walked the Camino de Santiago, Cornwall Coastal Path, Scottish Highlands, Ireland’s Ring of Kerry, Snowdonia in Wales, Guernsey and Brittany, and the Appalachian Trail. She surveyed birds in Kenya, Ecuador, Belize, and Iceland; paddled Alaska’s Prince William Sound and New Zealand’s Milford Sound; and delivered sailboats to the West Indies. Her homeplace is the Chesapeake Bay in Virginia, and her homeport is Beaufort, North Carolina, where she walks beaches with her Boykin Spaniel.

Her poems won the Guy Owen Poetry Prize and appear in Literary Trails of Eastern North Carolina; two poems were finalists for the James Applewhite Prize. She wrote Landfall Along the Chesapeake, In the Wake of Captain John Smith, an ecological history and boat adventure; Song of Moving Water, a novel about a young woman who organizes her community to oppose a dam; and Salt Runs in My Blood, poems about fish, birds, playing in boats, and walking long trails.

Contact her at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or

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