Greensboro meets its past, present and future: “27 Views of Greensboro: The Gate City in Prose & Poetry”


Sophia Lucente
   Staff Writer

Earlier this year, Hillsborough’s Eno Publishers released the latest in their series of geographically-oriented collections, which focus on notable North Carolinian cities. “27 Views of Greensboro: The Gate City in Prose & Poetry” is a historically and culturally rich documentation of the city’s past, present and future. It is divided into four sections based on Greensboro’s overall emotional impact on each of its 27 writers.

The collection’s contributors span a wide variety of educational and literary fields. Several are UNCG faculty members, including creative writing professors Michael Parker and Stuart Dischell, retired English professor Fred Chappell, and Latin American literature professor Verónica Grossi; others are employed at Guilford College and NC A&T. A few are journalists, having contributed to publications such as the Greensboro News & Record and O.Henry Magazine.

The first set of “27 Views” was understandably drawn from Hillsborough. The number came to be simply on account of the number of notable writers living in the town. Our State Magazine’s Daniel Wallace (whose quirky drawings also make up the covers of each “27” collection) expounded upon the number’s meaning in a 2013 article, noting the beauty of it in its evenness and sense of peaceful incompletion.

“The ancient Greeks thought that a celebration attended by 27 people was the perfect size for a gathering – neither too grand nor uncomfortably intimate,” Wallace wrote. “And thus it would follow that a book with that many stories, poems, and essays in it…would be the perfect number to attract a good quantity of readers, discerning readers, ones who are searching for a tone that is not too lofty and not too light.”

The two-person staff at Eno ordinarily puts out two books every year. Since documenting the small-town intricacies of Hillsborough, Eno has released sets of “27 Views” of Chapel Hill, Durham, Asheville, Raleigh, Charlotte – and finally, Greensboro.

It is worth noting that there is something fundamentally different about the Gate City’s 27-piece portrait. In spite of its vast historical formation – from military involvement to railroad construction to racial evolution – Greensboro continues to struggle with the unification of its population.

It is a place of educational wealth and capitalistic endeavors; the two forces simultaneously create positive change and encourage destructive and heated debate.

“It’s not a ‘scene’ like Durham or Asheville has become,” said Michael Parker, who has lived in Greensboro since the early 1990s. “You can find anything here if you’re open to looking for it. Other places make it easy. You arrive there and you immediately feel a part of something. So you mostly stop trying to find new things because you assume, as a resident, that they will come to you.”

Verónica Grossi, a former resident of Guadalajara, Mexico, is a painter and a poet when she isn’t teaching. She feels that while it is often overshadowed by the urgency of economic development, the city’s artistic scene is flourishing. She loves to seek companionship in the modesty and multi-faceted assets of organization that her fellow Greensbororian artists cultivate, naming UNCG’s Weatherspoon Gallery, the Greenhill Center and Elsewhere as her favorite places to frequent.

Grossi’s contribution to “27 Views: Greensboro, A Poem in Prose,” is the final piece featured in the collection. Written in stream-of-consciousness form, it details her thoughts on nature, citizens’ sense of ownership of their city and Greensboro’s contrasting sonic forces as they play backdrop to daily life.

In perusing her poem, the reader feels moved by its representation of color and at the same time oddly unfulfilled. The piece was aptly chosen to conclude story upon story of memories and history lessons. It reminds us that the Gate City’s integration of culture and race is far from finished and that closer examination and relaxation of our daily routine is crucial to understanding our potential progress.

“Here we have a sense of a lot of trees – that nature is close to you. But at the same time, you have this modern rhythm of life, and that creates a very interesting concept of this ‘rush, rush, rush’ – for what?” Grossi said in an interview with the Carolinian, later contrasting the urban American desire for expedited accomplishment with certain European countries’ decreased commercialism and better, physical spaces for walking and enjoying one’s environment. “[In Greensboro] it is so fragmented. Where is the center of society?”

Mark Smith-Soto, former editor of UNCG’s International Poetry Review and author of the collection’s poem “Fish Store Mural Relocated,” echoed this sentiment.

“I wish that we weren’t so segregated along racial and economic lines,” he said of the Greensboro community. “And that our significant ethnic [and] cultural diversity would be better understood as the potential treasure that it is, a rich resource we must work harder properly to explore and to develop.

Indeed, Greensboro is much more than its downtown. It is roughly 130 square miles and its population as cited by the 2013 census is nearly 280,000. It has been the heart of numerous refugee and immigrant resettlement programs, now home to many of North Carolina’s 14,000 refugees received from 2001 to 2011.

It takes only a short trip down W. Market Street to discover a plethora of multicultural eateries and groceries – and yet much of Greensboro is undeniably whitewashed in terms of commercial goods and racially divided within its neighborhoods.

Moving forward, the Gate City has the potential to establish a more inclusive environment – a destination that the “27 Views” suggests in its amalgam of dreams. Its unique assets in higher education, as Dischell noted in his exchange with the Carolinian, should play a role in this future.

“[Our city needs to work on] bringing the community together,” he said, “[and] bursting the bubble of complacency and self-satisfaction, an acknowledgement that our city is more than a commercial enterprise.”

“27 Views of Greensboro” can be purchased at Scuppernong Books and Barnes & Noble, the latter of which offers the collection in print and in Nook format. It can also be ordered directly from Eno Publishers at

Categories: Arts & Entertainment, Visual & Performance

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