During his first term as governor of North Carolina, Pat McCrory has made enemies of environmentalists, poor people, small-business owners, teachers, city councils, electric-car owners, tree lovers and, oddly enough, fans of “The And Griffith Show,” which happened when he was still a candidate in 2012 and mistook an Andy Griffith impersonator for the real guy a few weeks before Griffith’s passing.
Now he’s added another faction to the growing list of malcontents. He’s gone and pissed off the poets.
On Friday, McCrory threw protocol and precedence out the window and announced that Valerie Macon would be the new poet laureate for our state. In doing this, he bypassed the North Carolina Arts Council, which has traditionally had a role in the selection process since the 1960s.
The state legislature allowed for a poet laureate in 1935, with the first one, Arthur Talmage Abernathy, appointed by Gov. Gregg Cherry in 1948.
Just six others have held the position since then, including Greensboro poet Fred Chappell, who sat from 1997-2002 at the behest of Gov. Jim Hunt.
The rub on Macon is that she’s a new and unestablished poet, with just two self-published collections under her belt, the first, Shelf Life, in 2011. And, naturally, the entrenched poetry and arts contingent doesn’t like being cut from the loop.
McCrory seems to come from the George W. Bush school of governance in this position: shooting from the hip, going with his gut, dancing with the ones who brought him to the party. Macon, of Fuquay-Varina, is a registered Republican, a fact that has not gone unnoticed by the sonnets and odes crowd. And she works in Aldona Wos’ beleaguered NC Department of Health & Human Services.
Naturally, the entrenched poetry and arts contingent doesn’t like being cut from the loop.
What may be even worse: She’s a Yankee, with roots in New York, which makes her the worst kind of Yankee.
McCrory’s disregard for procedure is telling — another point of departure from his time as mayor of Charlotte, when he looked downright progressive in comparison to now.
And by fast-tracking a relatively unknown poet — however talented she may be — he reinforces his disdain for the liberal arts in general.
It was little more than a year ago that he excoriated the “educational elite” in a move to make our state universities teach “what business and commerce need” as opposed to things like philosophy, history… and poetry.
Perhaps McCrory doesn’t realize that there’s power in poetry, in the written and spoken word.
Or maybe he does, and he wants to align the message with the values of his party, corporate in theme, dismissive of the least among us, mainly concerned with the consolidation of power and money.