Phi Beta Cons

Poetry in Motion

Who says the liberal arts are impotent in today’s high-tech world when a governor may have risked his future political career appointing a poet laureate whom the literary community would not accept? North Carolina’s chief of state found out, and fast, that his selection of a female state worker who had not earned her spurs was a bad move.

Governor Pat McCrory, a Republican elected in the historical 2012 GOP sweep of both Houses of the Legislature, has been the target of the Democrat-biased Raleigh daily since the took office. Naturally, the Raleigh News & Observer gleefully stoked the controversy by publishing dozens of letters lambasting McCrory for bypassing the traditional process that sought input from the North Carolina Arts Council. The paper threw kerosene on the conflagration by sponsoring a contest calling for poems from readers criticizing the governor for his uninformed choice and low-brow tendencies. 

Valerie Macon, whose oeuvre comprises two self-published and jejeune commentaries on social issues, resigned as poet laureate in a matter of days under pressure from the outraged poets, writers, and arts advocates. Medicare funding, teacher pay and the Common Core receded from the headlines to make way for an issue no one saw coming. The frustrated governor proceeded to make things worse by criticizing the literary and arts community for pointing out to him there is more to poetry than merely possessing a social conscience.

This episode makes it clear there is an unwritten, unspoken, intangible perception that a liberal arts background defines who is a leader and who is a technician. Or, to be precise, between an “educated” person and someone simply trained to perform a function. Governor McCrory demonstrated that deep inside voters prefer statesmen to proles with pedicures, a distinction the public couldn’t quite figure out about the governor–until now. McCrory, who has been mentioned as a possible GOP presidential contender, has been exposed as a Philistine over a decision he thought was trivial in his quotidian worldview.

He found out the hard way that poets are people, too.

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