Monday, July 21, 2014

Monday Muse: North Carolina Poet Laureate

I prepared last week the post that follows. It was based on my research into appointee Valerie Macon's background. On July 18, this past Friday, I learned that Macon had resigned because of the considerable dissent — some quite mean-spirited (see articles cited below) — that arose earlier about her prospective incumbency. In a letter to Governor Pat McCrory, Macon emphasized that she did "not want the negative attention that this appointment has generated to discourage or distract attention from the Office of the Poet Laureate." In closing, she urged everyone "to read and write poetry", adding that only "the joy of words and appreciation of self-expression" were needed. If and when an announcement is made of a new appointee, I will contribute an update. It is unfortunate that politics mixed so combustively with poetry, especially in a state that has produced many wonderful poets.

Succeeding Joseph Bathanti as North Carolina's Poet Laureate is Valerie Macon, whose appointment was announced July 11. Macon's appointment as the eighth state poet is for two years. She is the third woman to hold the job.

Information about the position, which is renewable at the governor's discretion, is found in my Monday Muse post of June 28, 2010, which profiles Cathy Bowers, Bathanti's predecessor. To read my profile of Bathanti, whose term concluded June 30, 2014, see my Monday Muse post of October 15, 2012.

The incumbent of the position, who normally undertakes a long-term project of value to the public, is described as the "ambassador of North Carolina literature." 

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A  resident of North Carolina for more than three decades, Valerie Macon, a state disabilities examiner with the Department of Health and Human Services, is the author of two chapbooks of poetry: Sleeping Rough (Old Mountain Press, 2014) and Shelf Life (Old Mountain Press, 2011). According to the books'  sales pages at Old Mountain, the former is about homelessness and  the latter about life's joys and sorrows.

Valerie Macon received in 2014, 2013, and 2011 honorable mentions for her poems "Offering", "Detour", and "Soul Food", respectively, in North Carolina Poetry Society competitions for adults. (A link to "Detour" is included below.)


"Governor McCrory Appoints State Poet Laureate", Office of the Governor, July 11, 2014

Department of Cultural Resources, "Governor McCrory Appoints Valerie Macon Poet Laureate", July 14, 2014

Georgia Parke, "McCrory Taps Fuquay-Varina's Valerie Macon to Be NC's Next Poet Laureate", Charlotte Observer, July 13, 2014 (This and other early news articles about Macon's appointment read as virtually identical.)

Below is a wide sampling of the many news articles (more than 150), opinion pieces, and blog posts, in and outside North Carolina, that have addressed and fueled the controversy over Macon's appointment:

Alexandra Alter, "North Carolina's New Poet Laureate Bows Out", ArtsBeat Blog, The New York Times, July 18, 2014

Duncan McFadyen, "N.C. Gobernor Causes Controversy With Poet Laureate Appointment", NPR, July 17, 2014

"Uproar: Self-Published Poet Laureate in NC Resigns", WRAL, July 17, 2014

Martha Waggoner, "NC Poets Laureate Hope to Meet With Governor", WNCN, July 17, 2014 (Also see Waggoner's July 17 article at Minneapolis StarTribune.)

Katy Waldman, "People in North Carolina Are Really Upset About Their New Poet Laureate", Slate, July 17, 2014 (Update, July 18, 2014)

Collin Kelley, "Notes on a Scandal: North Carolina Poet Laureate Valerie Macon", Modern Confessional, July 17, 2014; Update

Ed Southern, "Valerie Macon Is North Carolina's New Poet Laureate", White Cross School: The Online Journal of the North Carolina Writers' Network, July 16, 2014

Martha Waggoner, "NC Gov Defends His Self-Published Poet Laureate", AP Big Story, July 16, 2014

Martha Waggoner, "NC Gov. Says He Will Review Poet Laureate Process", News Observer, July 16, 2014

Dane Huffman, "McCrory's Choice for NC Poet Laureate Irks Writers", NBC 26, July 16, 2014

Chris Vitiello, "Opinion: McCrory's Mean Joke, a Poet Laureate Who's Barely a Poet", Arts, Indy Week, July 16, 2014

Weston Williams, "A Self-Published Poet Laureate? North Carolina Pick Draws Controversy", The Christian Science Monitor, July 15, 2014

"Our View : No Need to Name an Official Poet", Your Daily Journal, July 14, 2014

David Menconi, "NC Poet Laureate Criteria Have 'Changed'", News Observer, July 15, 2014

David Menconi, "McCrory Picks Poet Laureate Without Input, Rankles Poetry Community", News Observer, July 14, 2014

Dannye Romine Powell, "McCrory Bypasses N.C. Poet Laureate Selection System", Reading Matters (Blog), July 13, 2014 (Also see: "Former Poets Laureate Take High Road on McCrory's Appointment", July 14, 2014; and "Poets Piqued Over Way Gov. McCrory Chose NC Laureate", Charlotte Observer, July 14, 2014. Powell also published an article in The Charlotte Observer on July 15.)

Valerie Macon Poetry Online: "Vegetarian Meat Lover" (Shelf Life) at Old Mountain Press; "Detour" (Sleeping Rough) at Old Mountain Press 

Gilbert-Chappell Distinguished Poets Series (FaceBook) This series falls under the aegis of the North Carolina Poetry Society. The program is named for poet Marie Gilbert and former state poet Fred Chappell (1972-2002).

North Carolina Arts Council and NCAC Poet Laureate Page (Information on the latter page has been revised since Macon's appointment.)

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