July 22, 2014
North Carolina poet laureate resigns amid controversy
by Nick Davies
Less than a week after being named poet laureate of North Carolina, self-published poet Valerie Macon has resigned from the post. As we reported on Moby Lives, her appointment caused a good deal of consternation among the literary and artistic community, and as criticism of Governor Pat McCrory’s decision increased, she has decided to step away from the commotion and the position.
David Menconi writes for Raleigh’s News and Observer that while Macon could not be reached for a statement, she issued a letter to McCrory stating that the attention and debate over her was distracting from the poet laureate position. The News and Observer posted her resignation letter in full, which states:
I do not want the negative attention that this appointment has generated to discourage or distract attention from the Office of the Poet Laureate.
I remain passionate about the mission of poetry to touch all people regardless of age, education of social status. I would like to encourage everyone to read and write poetry They do not need a list of prestigious publishing credits or a collection of accolades from impressive organizations — just the joy of words and appreciation of self-expression.
I would like to thank the many individuals who have voiced their support of my appointment.
McCrory responded to frustration of his choice in a press conference last week, saying that he stood by his appointment on behalf of “people that [sic] aren’t always a part of the standard or even elite groups that have been in place for a long time;” and after Macon resigned, he lamented “the way some in the poetry community have expressed such hostility and condescension toward an individual who has great passion for poetry and our state.” Roundly criticized for not working with the North Carolina Arts Council, McCrory asserts that he had “minimal involvement” in the choice — which raises the question of just who made the decision.
Former North Carolina poet laureate Kathryn Stripling Byer, one of the many who expressed disappointment in Macon’s appointment, told the News and Observer, “I’m sorry McCrory put her through this. I hope people place the blame where it belongs, not on the literary community but on a governor who took matters into his own hands and chose a good person who just was not yet ready for this post. It’s sad.”
McCrory has promised to review the selection process for poet laureate, calling for the public to make recommendations for writers “from both traditional and non-traditional organizations.”
Nick Davies is a publicist at Melville House.