NC poet laureate criteria have 'changed'

Posted by David Menconi on July 15, 2014 

Since Gov. Pat McCrory named Valerie Macon as North Carolina’s new poet laureate on Friday, the overwhelming consensus within the state’s poetry community is that she’s not qualified.

The North Carolina Arts Council had a set of “Selection Criteria” spelled out on its website:

• A North Carolinian with deep connections to the cultural life of this state

• Literary excellence of the writer’s work

• Influence on other writers

• An appreciation of literature in its diversity throughout the state.

• Statewide, national or international reputation

• Ability and willingness to conduct the public engagement duties of the office

The site also states:

“Poets laureate serve two-year terms. After a public nomination period, a selection committee meets to review nominations and make recommendations to the Governor. The Governor then announces the new poet laureate. The next round of nominations will open in spring, 2014.”

The state’s position, however, is something along the lines of “Pirates of the Caribbean” – those are more guidelines than rules, and therefore not binding. And if you go looking on the Arts Council website now those criteria have disappeared (the link above is to a cached site).

“Those were the selection criteria developed by the N.C. Arts Council internally during a past selection process,” Cary Cox, the Department of Cultural Resources marketing and communications director, explained via email. “They are not a requirement. (Cultural Resources Secretary Susan Kluttz)’s position is that the poet laureate is appointed by the Governor and it is his prerogative on whom to choose.”

Cox also pointed to the job description, that the poet laureate is to “act as an ambassador of N.C. literature, using the office as a platform from which to promote N.C. writers and the potentially transformative quality of poetry and the written word.”

“Valerie Macon meets this objective with an enthusiasm that is contagious,” Cox wrote.

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