Self-published N.C. poet laureate resigns

Valerie Macon

RALEIGH, N.C. - North Carolina's poet laureate resigned Thursday, less than a week after her appointment as criticism of the governor for choosing a writer with just two self-published books of poems continued.

Valerie Macon, a disability examiner for the state, said in a letter to Gov. Pat McCrory that she was resigning because she didn't want the negative attention surrounding her appointment to distract from the position.

"I remain passionate about the mission of poetry to touch all people regardless of age, education or social status," she wrote. "I would like to encourage everyone to read and write poetry. They do not need prestigious publishing credits or a collection of accolades from impressive organizations - just the joy of words and appreciation of self-expression."

While saying he reluctantly accepted Macon's resignation, McCrory also got in a dig at North Carolina's established writers, some of whom had criticized the governor for bypassing the traditional method of selecting a poet laureate.

"I'm also disappointed by 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," McCrory said.

It said he would continue to review the selection process, adding "we will ask for recommendations from the public and hope that those candidates represent talented poets from both traditional and nontraditional organizations."

McCrory had named Macon the previous week to the prominent post. But within days, he was being criticized for the way he chose the next poet laureate.

The traditional process involved a committee of writers, appointed by the North Carolina Arts Council, which recommended poets to the governor for his ultimate selection.

However, McCrory wasn't required to use that process. Instead, he said he chose Macon from among poets his staff recommended.

By Wednesday, the governor was saying that he would review the process used to select Macon. On Thursday, North Carolina's four previous poets laureate issued a statement criticizing McCrory for that process, saying the method that the governor used "has resulted in disaster."

Outgoing poet laureate Joseph Bathanti said the four would like to meet with McCrory so they could talk about their work.

Macon has self-published two books, "Shelf Life" and "Sleeping Rough."

The Arts Council's selection process for the poet laureate was deleted from its website, and the governor said he was unaware of the agency's guidelines for choosing a poet laureate.

But McCrory's news release about her appointment included some of the same guidelines as the council once used.