McCrory names new poet laureate

Posted December 22, 2014

Shelby Stephenson is the North Carolina poet laureate.

— Gov. Pat McCrory announced the state’s new poet laureate Monday, five months after the previous poet laureate resigned amid controversy over her selection.

Shelby Stephenson, a retired English professor, magazine editor and member of the North Carolina Literary Hall of Fame, will be installed during a public ceremony in February at the State Capitol.

"Shelby Stephenson will represent the literary greatness of our state, especially through his upcoming work with helping nursing home residents express themselves through poetry," McCrory said in a statement. "We recognize that we didn't follow the traditional process during the last selection. However, this time my appointment comes from the strong recommendation of Secretary (of Cultural Resources Susan) Kluttz and the distinguished members of the selection panel. Mr. Stephenson's selection is a reflection of their excellent work, and North Carolina owes them a debt of gratitude."

The governor was referring to his last choice for poet laureate, Valerie Macon, a disability examiner for the state whose poems reflect her interest in helping the homeless.

Her selection in July drew ire from established writers across the state, including the four previous poet laureates, who said she was self-published and lacked a significant body of work to be chosen. Critics also said McCrory picked her without going through the traditional selection process involving the North Carolina Arts Council.

Macon quickly resigned, saying in a letter that she didn’t want the negative attention from her appointment to distract from the post.

Stephenson, who grew up near Benson and graduated from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, has numerous published poetry collections, including “The Hunger of Freedom,” “Family Matters: Homage to July, the Slave Girl,” and “Plankhouse.”

He has also amassed numerous awards, including the Bellday Poetry Prize and the Oscar Arnold Young Award.

“I am thrilled at the choice of Shelby Stephenson as North Carolina’s poet laureate,” Kluttz said in a statement. “He received many strong nominations, backed up by his impressive resume. He is a wonderful representative of the outstanding poets that flourish in our state. I look forward to working with him in the coming years.”

The North Carolina poet laureate serves as an ambassador of the state’s literature, using the office as a platform to promote both the written word and North Carolina writers.


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  • justabumer Dec 29, 2014

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    No problem. I'm just not familiar with this recognition and wonder if it's a position which is important enough for there to be a controversy about who is chosen.

  • wayneboyd Dec 29, 2014

    I'm no physist, nor do I have a degree in science. I did however work on one of the first (I recall) co-gen power plants in this region.
    When the job was near finishing we were monitoring the emissions coming from the stack and the power plant was actually producing emissioms less harmful to the enviornment than was the exhaust from on of the two 4100 Mantiwoc cranes used in erecting it.
    Too the fly ask from the scrubbers was being purchased by the Va. state hiway department and mixed with the asphault to pave roads.

  • Edward Levy Dec 29, 2014
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    very-very old news

  • Larry Lynch Dec 25, 2014
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    gov nor mc wanted to appoint a poet
    to divert the public from the coal pits - don't you know it
    frustrated he threw up his hands and said
    I don't give a dam, you're stuck with me an the pits
    now put the issue to rest and go to bed.

  • asjdiw Dec 24, 2014

    As if the South needed more fuel for the "we are inferior to the north" discussion.
    Thanks, Gov for dropping "see Spot run, Spot have fun" poet for the real deal.

  • Eq Videri Dec 23, 2014
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    There once was a man from Ohio
    Who aimed to give Guv the old try-oh.
    He ran 'cross the state;
    We thought he'd be great --
    But soon he'll be saying bye-bye-oh.

  • InTheNo Dec 23, 2014

    McCrory... Lord help us.

  • Holly Atkins Dec 23, 2014
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    It isn't that important but it was another example of McCrory NOT following protocol and thinking he could do whatever he wanted.

    You know, kind of how McCrory/Wos hired all those youngins who were way out of their depth!

  • dh1964 Dec 22, 2014

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    It's not particularly important. So what's the problem?

  • justabumer Dec 22, 2014

    Why is this important?