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2018

NORTH CAROLINA L I T E R A R Y RE V I E W

IN MEMORIAM June Guralnick remembers

Sally Buckner North Carolina’s beloved native daughter, Sally Buckner, closed her Book of Life on January 7, 2018. Sally would have appreciated that, also on this day in history, two essential tools for writers were created: the typewriter was patented by Englishman Henry Mill (1714), and some 176 years later, the fountain pen was patented by African American inventor William Purvis (1890). Sally wielded both instruments to great effect: literary luminary, teacher, and humanitarian, my dear friend was an undeniable force of nature. It’s odd that I cannot remember when I first met Sally – possibly because it would be unthinkable to imagine my life without her gentle, inspiring spirit as part of it. In 2016, I was approached by the North Carolina Arts Council to give a brief presentation at the occasion of Sally receiving The Order of the Long Leaf Pine. I was honored and a bit overwhelmed at the request. I knew that a woman with Sally’s breadth and depth could not be captured in a few words. With the kind forbearance of all who were blessed to know Sally, my reflections follow.

In preparation for my brief remarks on this occasion, I decided to visit the Sally Buckner Archives at UNC Chapel Hill’s Wilson Library. My plan? Breeze through her papers for a few minutes and then merrily be on my way to a morning latte. Arriving at the Southern Historical Collection front desk, I somewhat officiously requested of the librarian to be so good as to retrieve the Sally Buckner papers so I could glance through them in the next half hour or so. She quickly proceeded (aren’t those UNC librarians angels?) to search for the collection number: 05250 – The Sally Buckner Papers, 1963–2004. When the entry popped up on the librarian’s computer, she smiled – a rather odd smile which I would understand in a moment. “Which box” she asked? “Which box?” I replied. “How many are there?” “There are approximately eight thousand items,” she replied with a definite gleam in her eye. It took a minute for that number to sink in – eight thousand items, which are housed in eight series, each

Playwright JUNE GURALNICK, a New York native, is actively involved in the dramatic arts community of North Carolina. Read excerpts from her play Finding Clara in NCLR 2009.

series containing multiple boxes. Needless to say, I did not get through the entire Buckner archives in thirty minutes. But until that reading room shuttered its doors at six pm, I became lost in the tidal wave that is Sally Buckner. There are three types of captains who guide ships – those driven by ego and the search for fame, those driven by greed and the search for spoils, and those driven by the spirit of exploration and desire to engage with the world, in all its glories and foibles, and by so doing make the world a better place for us all. Sally exemplifies this last type – self-effacing, steady-as-she-goes, learned, life-affirming, loving anchor of North Carolina’s literary vessel. In the hundreds of letters and cards that I reviewed in her archive, it became staggeringly apparent how many individuals Sally has personally helped (including myself) as a mentor, friend, colleague, editor – and yes, sometimes, gentle critic. Let me just say that many of the letters are not perfunctory notes! How did you find time, Sally, to answer your voluminous correspondence and respond to us all? These letters detail Sally’s inspiring, often profound influence on the correspondent’s life and work. “Thank you for the immense gift of love, time, and effort you have given to us all,” Rebecca Clanaghan wrote in 1999. “Your concern and commitment were apparent from the outset,” typed William C. Friday, 1987. “Thanks again for being the hardworking woman of this operation,” penned Emily Wilson in 1992. It is impossible to detail Sally’s extraordinary involvement in our state’s literary landscape in the short time we have here today. So, I apologize for offering the Reader’s Digest rather than the unabridged, fully annotated version of her background. Sally was born in Statesville in 1931. Her father, George Beaver, was a plumber and her mother, Foda Stack Beaver, was a teacher and bookkeeper. In case

North Carolina Literary Review Online 2018  

A literary review published online annually by East Carolina University and by the North Carolina Literary and Historical Association.

North Carolina Literary Review Online 2018  

A literary review published online annually by East Carolina University and by the North Carolina Literary and Historical Association.

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