Flower

Poetry is War (Part 1)

Valerie Macon, former Poet Laureate of NC and author of Sleeping Rough, a collection of poems about the homeless

By Mick Hunt

In mid-July the Republican governor of North Carolina dropped a bombshell, or so you’d think if you read any quotes from his natural opponents, the Lions of the Literary Left.

The Democrats of our state are still roaring because of the demise in 2012 of their 140 year dynasty, during which they controlled one or more of the two legislative bodies and/or the office of Governor. Since then we’ve been barraged by “Moral Monday” marches and rallies and other truly meaningless events across the state that captivate the attention of a discriminating media, discriminating against what’s really important.

For instance, a handful of abortion activists left a box of broken cookies at the gate of the governor’s mansion last week.  If his “war on women” wasn’t bad enough, Governor McCrory offended additionally when he “face slapped” the world of literature by appointing an unknown writer to be the Poet Laureate of our state. Valerie Macon, whose writing credits primarily included two self-published books of poetry, had not been vetted by the NC Arts Council, as per long standing custom, had not been recognized over time by the established poetic community, and she might even be a Republican, some said.  A writer for Slate Magazine commented on a certain poet’s response:

“Vitiello concludes by pronouncing Valerie Macon “Pat McCrory’s middle finger, pointed at North Carolina’s literary tradition.”…However, something about Vitiello’s brutal response doesn’t sit well. I can understand his frustration, and his sense of the stakes, but public dismemberment is never fun to witness, particularly of someone who means no harm.”

The Governor so allegedly insulted the dignity of the Office of Poet Laureate, that four past Poet Laureates wrote him a joint letter of protest . When I first read the news stories about this, the name of their chief spokesman, Kathryn Stripling Byer, seemed familiar. I haven’t been able to find it yet, but I’m almost certain Byer wrote me a letter back in 1994 objecting to the newspaper advertisements I took out about a pro-abortion female candidate for Congress. A little internet research however found these sample comments from her left on our then Democratic congressman Heath Shuler’s website in February of 2011:

Kathryn Stripling Byer
Yes, Mr. Shuler, how can you have voted against the women of WNC? You make me ashamed to say you represent our district.
February 18, 2011 at 6:26pm

Kathryn Stripling Byer
Stand with Planned Parenthood–go to this link:http://www.ppaction.org/IStandWithPP
February 18, 2011 at 6:44pm

Her issue was the rather innocuous HR 358 of 2011, called the Protect Life Act, which was intended to keep abortion out of the equation of the Affordable Care Act, (ObamaCare.)

So, even though I would agree that McCrory’s process overlooked many highly qualified, gifted, hard working poets, I’m guessing the opposition to the governor’s appointment of Valerie Macon was more about harming him politically than it was about poetry. The Poets Laureate said nothing about the quality of her poetry. And Macon might very well have been an outstanding Poet Laureate, making poetry an art of the people rather than, as one commentator suggested, of the realm of the MFA baristas. To her credit, and hinting at the cruelty of her opposition, Valerie Macon resigned after less than a week.

The whole situation offered rich entertainment value, tinged with pathos in witnessing the crushing of one enthusiastic voice. If anything, during her brief days in the office she helped poetry more than all the past NC Poets Laureates together did with all their hundreds of publications, honors, and awards. Because, I and many others didn’t even know we had a Poet Laureate until the protests about her appointment began.

The situation also taught me that poetry is political. I wonder now how much poetry is suffused with the abortion culture, how much undercurrent, how much subtext. It also helped me realize that poetry can work the other way, that we should infuse life into words and craft them into weapons for truth.

Let’s fight poetry with the fire of poetry.

Mick Hunt (Meredith Eugene Hunt) is a FAB contributor.  He has helped organize more than 50 Genocide Awareness Projects (GAPs) all over the southeast and elsewhere.

 

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