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Former poets laureate take high road on McCrory's appointment

By Danny Romine Powell
Valerie Macon
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Valerie Macon

Many poets in the state are incensed that Gov. Pat McCrory bypassed standard procedure in selecting Valerie Macon of Fuquay-Varina as the new N.C. poet laureate, to follow the current poet laureate Joseph Bathanti and serve the state for two years.

Macon, who's 64, and a graduate of Meredith College, has two poetry chapbooks that are self-published.

Other poets laureate, in this state and throughout the nation, typically have a stellar list of publications, awards and honors.

But two former poets laureate, Kathryn Stripling Byer of Cullowhee and Fred Chappell of Greensboro, want to help support Macon.

"I feel it's part of my role as a former poet laureate to offer my assistance to the incoming poet laureate, no matter the violation of protocol that led to her selection," says Byer.

Chappell hopes that Macon's friends in the poetry community will show her the ropes and help her learn to talk to young kids about poetry.

"The idea (of being poet laureate)," he says, "is to spark interest in literature in general, in poetry in particular and in N.C. poetry especially. And to make sure the laureateship is representative and not just about herself."

That doesn't mean that Byer and Chappell are happy the governor circumvented policy.

Byer feels the violation damages our "strong literary reputation throughout the nation and damages the state of North Carolina."

Chappell calls the violation an "arbitrary seizure of power that's liable to result in unfortunate circumstances."

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