Betty Adcock grew up in the small farming town of San Augustine in deep East Texas. Her sixth generation roots there inform much of her early work, particularly the unexpectedly lush and unusual landscapes of her early life near immense and disappearing forests and the nearby Big Thicket, her father's hunting ground, its fragments now protected as Wilderness Preserve. Hers was not the Texas of wide plains and cowboys but a landscape settled earlier under Spain, with immigrants from North Carolina, Virginia, and Tennessee. Its culture was an extraordinary mix of the Deep South and the western frontier.
Since her marriage to Donald Adcock, musician and educator who died in 2011, she has lived all her writing life in North Carolina, where she received the state's highest literary honors. Their daughter, Sylvia Adcock, is a journalist married to Steve Ruinsky. There are two matchless granddaughters, Tai and Mollie.
Betty has studied and written poetry through early marriage, early motherhood, and more than a decade working in the business world. After her first book, Walking Out, was published by LSU Press, she held a teaching residency for a semester at Duke University. Other residencies followed, including two decades at Meredith College in Raleigh. She has twice held visiting professorships in the MFA Program at North Carolina State University, and she was for ten years a member of the low-residency Warren Wilson MFA Program for Writers.
Her work has appeared in many journals and anthologies including two Pushcart collections and the Pushcart Book of Poetry: Best Poems from Thirty years of the Pushcart Prize. In 1988 she gave a reading of her poems at the Library of Congress. Asked by an interviewer what she wished for in her work, she replied "To tell the truth and find that it is music."
Honors and awards
Great Lakes Colleges Association's New Writers Award
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
Sam Ragan Fine Arts Award
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
L.E. Phillabaum Award (2008)
Photo by Tai Lane Ruinsky