North Carolina’s Republican governor, Pat McCrory, was widely considered a political moderate when he was elected governor in 2012.
Since then, he has presided over a sharp turn to the right, that, along with his own gaffes and jibes at the liberal elite, has united labor and civil rights groups, women, jobless advocates and church leaders in infuriated opposition to him.
Add poets to the list.
The first-term governor tapped a new poet laureate last week, a woman named Valerie Macon: The 64-year-old is a state government worker and registered Republican whose oeuvre consists of two self-published poetry books.
Poets are peeved.
The highly competitive two-year, $15,000 post is normally awarded to poets of national and international acclaim, from a list submitted to the governor by the North Carolina Arts Council, after a screening process.
McCrory plucked Macon from a list drawn up by his staff.
Macon is a disability determination specialist for the state Department of Health and Human Services and a volunteer for the homeless, in addition to an amateur poet. Old Mountain Press, which published her two poetry collections, charges authors $2.50 to $3.00 per page, its website says.
In a press release, McCrory’s office said Macon had been nominated twice for a Pushcart Prize for small press publications — she was, by Old Mountain Press — and that she was the Gilbert-Chappell Distinguished Poet for the region in 2010, which she was not: A mentor of hers was, however, she told the Associated Press.
In a press briefing after a jobs announcement this week, McCrory defended his selection as a blow against elitism in the arts.
“We’ve got to open up opportunities for people that aren’t always a part of the standard or even elite groups that have been in place for a long time,” he said, the Charlotte Observer reported. “And it’s good to welcome new voices and new ideas.”
He also said he was unaware of the usual protocol for selecting a state poet laureate.
“I had my staff go through poets throughout the state, and I looked at those recommendations and made my decision,” he said. “We’re going to be reviewing that process. We were not aware of the traditional process that was in place. It wasn’t written down anywhere on the walls.”