August 14, 2011

Ann Deagon Biography

1Ann Blocker Fleming Deagon, born in Birmingham in 1930, graduated magna cum laude from Birmingham-Southern in 1950 and was inducted into Phi Beta Kappa. In 1951 she received her MA in Greek from UNC-Chapel Hill, and her PhD in Latin in 1954. From 1953 to 1961 she and husband Donald worked with “Unto These Hills” in Cherokee, NC. After teaching at Furman University 1954-56 they joined Guilford College, Donald as head of Drama until his death in1985 and Ann retiring in 1992 as Hege Professor of Humanities and Writer in Residence. Their daughters Andrea and Ellen were born there and graduated from Guilford. Ann taught overseas in Naples,Athens, and London, and was visiting professor at Elon College and Kalamazoo College.

Her serious writing began in 1970, and in 1974 Carbon 14 was published by U. Mass. and Poetics South by Blair. Indian Summer came out from Unicorn in 1975, Women and Children First from Iron Mountain in 1976, and in 1978 Godine published There Is No Balm in Birmingham, reissued by St. Andrews in 1997. No Balm had won both the Brockman Book Award and the Oscar Arnold Young Award.

Ann edited “The Guilford Review” 1976-1984, and her NEA Literary Fellowship in 1982 enabled her to broaden the scope of Poetry Center Southeast, which was set up in 1980 to house readings, workshops, and conferences for the Greensboro Writers’ Club, students, and townspeople. Here plans were laid for the North Carolina Writers’ Network, for whose members Ann still does critiques. She also served as president of several literary organizations and did residencies at Bread Loaf, Yaddo, AtlanticCenter for the Arts, and Weymouth.

In the 80’s Ann turned to fiction: Winthrop College published The Flood Story as its chapbook award in 1981, Green River Press brought out her short story collectionHabitats in 1982, and in 1984 her novel The Diver’s Tomb came out from St. Martin’s. Water Mark Press’s Breakthrough Award in 1985 brought publication of her experimental prose work The Pentekontaetia. Donald Deagon died in 1985, and Ann’s last book The Polo Poems was published by U. Nebraska in 1990.

Now she began a new life as a wanderer, actor, and singer/songwriter. Her publications—some 200 in some 100 magazines and anthologies—had brought her invitations to read and run workshops in a total of 20 states, but now she began to travel more widely, not just to England, Italy and Greece: to India on a Fulbright Seminar; to Egypt and back to Greece with her daughter Andrea, mid-eastern dancer as well as classics professor; and to Germany, Czechoslovakia, Finland, Estonia, and Russia singing tenor with the Choral Society of Greensboro.

After retirement in 1992 she acted with various community theatres, worked in film in Wilmington and with independent film makers, and modeled with a local agency. For several years she performed with “The Wise Cracks,” a collective of disorderly elderly women. She continues to perform occasionally at coffee shops, bars, bookstores, churches, festivals, retirement homes, art galleries, etc. Her songs are equally diverse, ranging from blues to folk to country, from social commentary to passion to the frankly bawdy. She has to be careful what she sings where.

At 81 she finds herself sustained by family—now including three grandchildren—friends, and the wider community of the arts, which has honored her with the Fortner Award from St. Andrews, dedication of the North Carolina Poetry Society’s “Pinesong,” this weekend’s celebration of her life and work, and the future promise of naming her Gilbert-Chappell Distinguished Poet for 2011-2012.

Filed under Blog, Previous Gilbert-Chappell Distinguished Poets by Zack

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