Rhea Carmon's time as Knoxville’s poet laureate is coming to an end, but she'll never stop creating or inspiring others to create.
Carmon, also known as “RheaSunshine,” stepped into the role in 2020. Her final event as poet laureate will be the Southern Fried Regional Poetry Slam June 7-10, one of the largest poetry slams in the country.
A poet laureate creates a sense of appreciation for poetry and spreads a message through performances at public events.
Carmon is a spoken word poet, so her work is meant to be performed. The art form grew in popularity on a national scale after former National Youth Poet Laureate Amanda Gorman performed at President Joe Biden's inauguration in 2021.
Carmon has spent her time leading poetry slams and collectives that foster a sense of creativity in our community. She creates poetry about everything from race and class issues to her son's autism to how she finds joy in the world.
It seemed fitting to mark the end of Carmon's role with our best attempt at a poem in her honor. Enjoy this poem, written (mostly) in a style called iambic pentameter, about Carmon.
A poem for Rhea Carmon, Knoxville's poet laureate
Few poets think like Rhea Carmon, rich
With brilliant thoughts for using words and math
In prose and style made to have perfect pitch,
And place us on the right and worthy path.
She makes her voice projected, clear and heard,
With power to build up community
Through stanzas, poem workshops, spoken word,
For gathered masses brought in unity
All celebrating culture, craft and art
Despite their varied views, beliefs and thoughts,
To take inclusive messages to heart
As all our minds absorb what Rhea taught.
Her tenure ends as poet laureate,
But to her poems still she will commit.
Knoxville's poet laureate has a passion for her work
Carmon has been a poet for over 20 years, starting with spoken word performances at open mic nights at Café Noir at Knoxville College while attending the University of Tennessee at Knoxville. She has launched poetry slams and collectives, including The 5th Woman, hosted writing workshops and helped facilitate the Knoxville Youth Poet Laureate Program, which selected Virgil Voyles as Knoxville's youth poet laureate.
After she concludes as poet laureate, Carmon will continue to perform and write poetry as she explores future possibilities.
She taught eighth grade math at Robertsville Middle School for many years. She grew up with a passion for both poetry and numbers.
She is performing a one-woman show at the Old City Performing Arts Center July 29 and 30 and is launching a poet-in-residence program that provides motivation and performances for businesses and schools.
Knoxville's next poet laureate will be named at the Southern Fried event, the city of Knoxville spokesperson Paige Travis told Knox News.
Correction: A previous version of this article misstated where Carmon went to college. She attended the University of Tennessee at Knoxville. We regret the error.
This article originally appeared on Knoxville News Sentinel: Knoxville poet laureate Rhea Carmon RheaSunshine ends term