Betty Adcock grew up in deep East Texas in the small farming town of San Augustine, one of the oldest settlements in the state. Her family history there begins in 1819, and such deep roots inform much of her work, particularly the unexpectedly lush and unusual landscape of her early life: this is not the Texas of prairies and cowboys but a mixture of deep south and west, in the shadow of immense and disappearing forests and the fabled Big Thicket wilderness. Her work engages a wide range of concerns that reach far beyond region, however; Rodney Jones has said: “Any new book by Betty Adcock is news. For years, she  has been making poetry of a subtle and intense focus that belies its ambition and scope.

Since her marriage to Donald Adcock, musician and educator, she has lived all her writing life in North Carolina, winning major literary honors in her adopted state. She and Don have one daughter, Sylvia Adcock, a journalist married to Steven Ruinsky, and two matchless granddaughters, Tai and Mollie.

Largely self-educated—she has no degrees—Adcock has studied and written poetry through early marriage, early motherhood, and more than a decade working in the business world. After her first book was published, she held a teaching residency for a semester at Duke University. Other residencies followed, culminating in an ongoing position as Writer in Residence at Meredith College in Raleigh, where she taught until 2006 and twice held the Mary Lynch Johnson Professorship. She has twice been Visiting Distinguished Professor in the North Carolina State University MFA Program. Adcock teaches now in the Warren Wilson College MFA Program for Writers, the oldest and most acclaimed low-residency graduate writing program in the country.

Her work has appeared in dozens of anthologies, including the recent Pushcart Book of Poetry: The Best Poems from the Thirty Years of the Pushcart Prize. Adcock has given readings of her work at more than one hundred colleges and universities and at the Library of Congress.

Asked in an interview what she hoped for in her poetry, she replied “to tell the truth and find that it is music.”

Two Pushcart Prizes
The Poets’ Prize
The North Carolina Medal for Literature
The Hanes Award for Poetry from the Fellowship of Southern Writers
The Texas Institute of Letters Prize for Poetry
The Campbell-Brockman Award
The Roanoke-Chowan Award
The Sam Ragan Fine Arts Award
The Raleigh Fine Arts Award
Fellowship in Poetry from the National Endowment for the Arts
North Carolina Individual Artist’s Fellowship
Finalist for the Lenore Marshall Prize (2002)
Guggenheim Fellowship in Poetry (2002-2003)
L.E. Phillabaum Award (2008)


Photo by Nicholas Graetz