As one of the 45 official poets laureate, I feel compelled to say something about Gov. Pat McCrory’s recent choice of Valerie Macon, a self-published author and state employee, as North Carolina’s poet laureate, and her abrupt resignation. It is important that the poet laureate position not be politicized and that a system be in place for the appointment. Ignoring the North Carolina Arts Council, as the governor did, is offensive, especially in a state known for its outstanding literary community.
Lots of people “dabble” in poetry, and that’s great, but it’s not the same as becoming a literary artist. Poetry is an art form that requires enormous effort and craft. Anyone considered for poet laureate should have achieved some level of literary accomplishment and have a record of working in the community and/or organizing literary events.
It is an honor and a privilege for me to serve as South Carolina’s poet laureate. In South Carolina, home of the oldest poetry society in the United States, poetry is flourishing, and as your article reports, it’s a national trend.
Charleston, S.C., July 28, 2014
To the Editor:
There may be many laureates in the land, but that doesn’t lessen the importance of their mission.
Poetry’s role as life preserver may be its greatest function, offering consolation that renders grief and solitude communal. Of course, it can also be great fun, providing playful — even thrilling — adventures on the page.
That’s the view from Kansas, where I am poet laureate serving a two-year term. My duties include giving 20 public readings and discussions a year as well as creating a statewide project — in my case, a weekly poetry column syndicated in newspapers across Kansas. Most important are the conversations about things that matter — nothing less than life and death on earth.
People remember their way back to poems from childhood, and many find their way forward to new poems that help them navigate adulthood.
The state poet laureateship has particular significance in Kansas, where it was rescued from the ashes of the extinguished arts commission by my predecessor and the humanities council. It is a win-win for the state and its citizens.
Shawnee Mission, Kan., July 28, 2014