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Poet David Rigsbee to Win Sam Ragan Award

David Rigsbee, whose book The Red Tower: New and Selected Poems will be published by NewSouth in September 2010, will receive the Sam Ragan Award for Distinguished Service to North Carolina Arts Thursday, February 4 at St. Andrews College in Laurinburg, North Carolina.

“Each year, we honor distinguished North Carolinians, past and present,” said Ron Bayes, chair of the Ragan Awards Committee. “Honorees are persons who have, over a long period, been outstanding practitioners of their art, and who have selflessly shared their talent with other creators, working in their primary genre and beyond.”

Rigsbee contributes to literature not only as a published poet, sporting 12 full books and two more in publication for 2010, but also as an editor. He is a regular reviewer for The Courtland Review. His poetry has appeared in The New Yorker, American Poetry Review, North Atlantic Review, Prairie Schooner, The Southern Poetry Review and The St. Andrews Review.

The Sam Ragan Fine Arts Awards were initiated in 1981 to honor of Sam Ragan, North Carolina’s first Secretary of Cultural Resources, and to celebrate the fact that North Carolina was the first of the United States to establish a cabinet-level position recognizing the fine arts.

Of the award and the importance of Sam Ragan, Rigsbee says, “Sam Ragan single-handedly made North Carolina poetry a part of North Carolina literature—at least as far as the public is concerned. He was a friend to all Southern poets—and a considerable poet himself—encouraging writers throughout the region, publishing reviews, giving readings, tirelessly sitting on way too many panels, and directing the resources of the state to promote its lyric art. As for me, I’ve tried to take Sam’s cue and do my part to help promote Southern poetry as a bona fide division—not just a curio—of Southern literature. I am a poet, editor, and reviewer, just like Sam, and yet there the similarity stops. Yet this is an important award for me, not because it recognizes any achievement of mine but as an affirmation of the ongoing spirit of literary culture in the South. Sam’s very name is an imprimatur, much like Garrison Keillor’s in Minnesota, Larry McMurtry’s in Texas, or Wallace Stegner’s in California. To be associated with his name is itself an honor. The fact that I knew Sam and that he also knew and said nice things about my own work is a special plus.”

Following the presentation of the awards, Rigsbee will share some of his written works during the Fortner Writers’ Forum beginning at 8 p.m. in Orange Main Lounge. The forum is free and open to the public.

Previous recipients of the Sam Ragan award have included Gov. Bob Scott, David Brinkley, Loonis McClohon, Kathryn Gurkin, Paul Jeffrey, Sally Nixon, Sally Buckner, and the Right Rev. Shelby Spong.