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Thursday, October 1, 2009

PEMBROKE MAGAZINE: Editor Shelby Stephenson discusses Number 41

Pembroke Magazine No. 41 is a gathering of old friends.

UNC Pembroke’s redoubtable literary journal returned to its roots with Number 41.

Shelby StephensonFor Dr. Shelby Stephenson, editor for the last 30 editions, it remains a labor of love and the premier magazine for North Carolina writers and their friends.

“We have a magazine!” he pronounced during a recent interview. “One-hundred-and-eighty pages. That reminds me of a story.”

The story is of Grace Cavalieri’s interview with Donald Hall, the 14th U.S. Poet Laureate (pages 118-134), who “carries on the tradition of Robert Frost,” Dr. Stephenson said.

“Grace is a dynamo and a fine poet and playwright too,” he said. “Hall tells her the story of meeting T.S. Elliot.”

Hall: “I knew him a little, so it wasn’t terrifying. When I first met him in his London offices, I was going up to Oxford, right after Harvard, and he had asked me on a visit at Harvard to come see him. Well, that was absolutely terrifying because he was King of the Mountain, in a sense that no one has been King of the Mountain since. And I met him and I was oh so deferential. I must have been disgusting. But he knew what I was going through, and he was perfectly kind. And as I was leaving he said, lingering in the doorway, ‘Let me see. Forty years ago I was going from Harvard to Oxford. Now you are going from Harvard to Oxford. What advice may I give you?’ And he waited just a millisecond and said, ‘Do you have any long underwear?’ I didn’t even know it was funny at the time. I bought long underwear on the way back to the hotel.”

“We have a tribute to Tony Abbott,” Dr. Stephenson said. “Tony is a wonderful person who came to North Carolina to teach at Davidson.”

Abbott was the 2008 honoree of the North Carolina Writers Conference. Some of the great names of modern North Carolina literature – Robert Morgan, Lee Smith, Ron Bayes, among others - offered tributes.  Abbott contributed too.

Pembroke Magazine Cover“Then we have a series of tributes to my old friend Sam Ragan,” Dr. Stephenson said. The late Sam Ragan was editor and publisher of the The Pilot newspaper in Southern Pines.

Every submission in Pembroke Magazine No. 41 is a story. A conversation about Ragan and other newspaper writers, including the recently deceased Tabor City Tribune Pulitzer Prize-winner Horace Carter, moved on to D.G. Martin.

“I will be on D.G.’s show (“Bookwatch”) on UNC TV just after Thanksgiving,” Dr. Stephenson said. “Not so much to talk about ‘Family Matters’ but about the context of race in Southern literature.”

“Family Matters: Homage to the July, the Slave Girl,” Dr. Stephenson’s most recent publication, is a book-length poem and heart-breaking tribute to a slave from the family’s past.

Pembroke Magazine’s last three editions were devoted to American Indian, African American and Hispanic writers respectively. They were quite lengthy and important volumes because they brought new writers to light, he said.

No. 41 returns to its more familiar material. Dr. Stephenson contributed a poem, and other contributors include an outstanding list of native North Carolina writers and some extended family members.

The magazine’s managing editor is Tina Emanuel and its office may be contacted at 910.521.6358 or by email at tina.emanuel@uncp.edu.

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