Poetry has long been an action-packed artistic genre in Western North Carolina. Here, it’s not merely written but spoken, slammed and taken into schools (thanks to Poetry Alive! — which celebrates its 30th anniversary with an event at The White Horse on Aug. 15 — and LEAF in Schools & Streets, among other initiatives).
In WNC, poetry is the stuff of serious study, but it’s also available at parties and on the street (thanks to “Poet for Hire” performance artists). But North Carolina poets have been in a particularly bright spotlight recently, due to what some are calling “Poet Gate.”
Valerie Macon, a disability examiner for the state of North Carolina and a self-published writer, was named Poet Laureate by Governor Pat McCrory on Friday, July 11. Less than a week later, Macon resigned, saying that “she didn’t want the negative attention her appointment has raised to distract from that prominent post.” Following Macon’s resignation, Susan Kluttz, Secretary of the North Carolina Department of Cultural Resources, said, “I met with Valerie Macon and was very impressed with her passion to use her talent to combat homelessness.” Kluttz added that she felt McCrory had been unfairly targeted and that the governor is incredibly supportive of this department and the arts.”
The six days between Macon’s appointment and resignation brought a flurry of confused and sometimes outraged comments from North Carolina’s poetry community. The upset stemmed somewhat from Macon’s limited output (just two collections) and self-published status, but more from McCrory’s decision to make his selection without input from a panel of writers.