Emily Herring Wilson

Portrait of Emily Herring Wilson by Ken Bennett

Emily Herring Wilson, a Georgia native, graduated from Woman’s College in Greensboro (present-day UNCG), where she studied writing with Randall Jarrell and published poems in the student literary magazine. Her greatest interest, however, was student government, and she spent much of her four years organizing campus activities, planning celebrations, and loving college. This proved to be the pattern of her life.After graduation, she enrolled in a master’s degree program in English at Wake Forest, and afterwards took a job teaching in the English Department. In 1964 she married the Wake Forest Dean Ed Wilson: they built a casual contemporary house in the faculty residential neighborhood. Their three children–Eddie, Sally, and Julie–brought into the family circle Laurie, Carolyn, John, and a dog, Gertie, and cat, Banana; and four amazing grandchildren–Buddy, Harry, Maria, and Ellie, who delight in books, camping, and travel. The Wilsons like to entertain informally, read aloud to one another, attend concerts, movies, and lectures, and live on a university campus.

Active in campus and community affairs, Emily became a staunch Democrat, a feminist, and a networker for cultural, racial, and literary lives and public programs. She volunteered in the public schools, worked in community colleges as Visiting Artist, wrote for the Winston-Salem Journal, lectured for the North Carolina Humanities Council, and taught at Reynolda House Museum of American Art, Salem College, Wake Forest University, and for a semester at Cornell, at the invitation of her friend, Archie Ammons.

With the help of her W.C. classmate Heather Ross Miller, in the beginning Emily wrote poems, published in small literary magazines and in chapbooks, and gave and sponsored readings. In the late 1970s, her writing interests turned toward nonfiction, and she subsequently published three books and edited two others about strong and independent women of the twentieth century.

Her memoir of her thirty-year friendship with the North Carolina native, Wake Forest alumnus, and friend Archie Ammons is the result of many years of thinking about him and remaining close to the Ammons family.

She says: “The final decision to publish it with Archie’s friend, and mine, Alex Albright at R.A. Fountain, would, I am sure, have pleased Archie immensely.” Both he and his wife, Phyllis, considered The North Carolina Poems their favorites of Archie’s many books.

“I am joined in this undertaking by all the friends who participated in these remembrances, and I’m grateful for our many enduring friendships and how they intersected in so many ways with Archie’s life. My intention here is to broaden the audience for poetry in general and for Archie Ammons in particular to a wider world than his eastern Carolina ‘home country.'”