The literary world of North Carolina has been buzzing the past week with the appointment of a poet laureate by Governor McCrory who did not go through the normal process of working with the NC Arts Council to selectthe best person for this important post.
Our own Netwest member and first woman poet laureate of North Carolina, Kathryn Stripling Byer spoke out online in numerous Facebook posts about the selection of Valerie Macon, poet from Fuquay-Varina whose literary credits seem to be two self-published books of poetry.
Byer along with three other past poets laureate issued a statement criticizing the process used by the governor.
"Instituted and administered expertly and transparently by the North Carolina Arts Council - which has our unqualified support and loyalty - the process insured that the poet laureate, ultimately appointed by the governor, was indeed a poet and educator of singular accomplishment, someone not only with a literary reputation in North Carolina, but beyond," their statement said. "The fact that that process was not recognized in the most recent appointment has resulted in disaster."
Although Macon is an advocate for the homeless and writes about their plight, she is not considered by most poets yet worthy to hold this honor. Those who struggle to perfect verse that is accepted and published by highly respected presses, who win awards for their work and who are recognized as leaders in their arts community were shocked to see that someone who was relatively an unknown, had been chosen over more qualified people.
A great example of what a poet laureate should be is Kathryn Byer who is recognized nationally and internationally for her work. FredChapell, former Poet Laureate has been published far and wide and is known throughout the literary world. Cathy SmithBowers and Joseph Bathanti, two recent poets laureate, also have outstanding resumes.
Some wonder, was the selection of Ms. Macon, who has now resigned, a deliberate poke at the literary community at large or was it complete ignorance as the governor has claimed. He indicated he did not know about the protocol whereby poets are recommended through the Arts Council and their works carefully examined before any of their names reach the governor’s desk. He said it was not written on the walls, so how was he to know?
I was told that the Arts Council sent the governor a packet of information informing him of the credentials of past laureates and the manner in which they were chosen. I assume he will be forced to follow protocol now that Valerie Macon has resigned.
It has certainly stirred up the poetry community and made North Carolina look inept to those in the country who follow such things. I received calls from Netwest members and from the local newspapers with questions about the botched appointment. The larger newspapers in this state have carried articles on the subject.
Below are some links you might want to read for more information.
One of the best articles was by our Executive Director, Ed Southern on the White Cross School blog.
What do you think? Leave your comments at the bottom of this post.