Saturday, July 26, 2014

Saturday, July 19, 2014

The Making of a One Week Poet Laureate

While many state governments are busy dealing budgets, revenue shortfalls, pandering to the NRA and trying  to make participating in the democratic process even  more challenging, Governor Pat McCrory of North Carolina has managed to create a controversy out of poetry.

Now you may say, who cares about poetry anyway? (If you are actually asking this question, you probably are not  reading this blog) Still, if you must persist with this question, then the simple answer is other poets. I'd like to argue that there is a larger universe of poetry lovers out there then just  poets themselves but  I've heard it said that  poets fair only slightly  better than mimes in terms of respect. That may be true, but I suspect we also rank higher than clowns (sorry they are just creepy), roaches, and congressmen and congresswomen.who are bringing up the rear, no pun intended. But we can hope this improves, for poets anyway and isn't that the point of having  Poet Laureates?

Evidently Governor  McCrory took lightly the responsibility of naming a new State Poet Laureate. Katy Waldman a Slate staff writer indicated it has been suggested that  Governor McCrory may have been trying to ditch the State Poet Laureate program altogether with his controversial appointment of Valerie Macon, whose credentials have been highly scrutinized - in large part due to the fact that the Governor sidestepped the North Carolina Arts Counsel in vetting  Macon as a candidate.

While I don't claim to know how every state that has a Poet Laureate addresses the selection process, I know that many states, my own included have generally relied upon some input of state arts counsels in vetting candidates the Governors to choose from. These things can get sticky as in the past there have been some controversies related to political involvement by some poets. But this case, for many, falls on the merits of the poet's body of work and literary background, not some hot button political issue. Four former state Poet Laureates have been critical of the Governor for his bypass of the Arts Counsel and selecting a person lacking in the kind of credentials one would expect  of a person to represent the state.

I suspect that Valerie Macon is a very fine individual. Of the little I have been able to learn about her I know that she is a civil servant and that she has a passion for helping the homeless.I know that she has self-published two books. I know that poems from them have been purported to have been nominated for Pushcart Prizes, though nominations from such publications do not meet the contest rules.  Further, it was reported that she has served as the Gilbert-Chappell Distinguished Poet for the .Eastern Region in 2011.when in fact she mentored under the person who actually held that title.

Valerie Macon resigned two days ago, July 17th, within a week of her appointment. In her letter of resignation she sited concern over the distraction from the function of the Laureate that she had become.
For her part, she says that she remains passionate about the mission for poetry to touch all people no matter what their age, education or social status. Governor McCrory has accepted Macon's resignation but has stated, "Poet laureate position shouldn't be limited to cultural elites.

A couple of observations on my part...

  • It's unfortunate that Ms. Macon was dirtied by the negative exposure. No one likes to become a public spectral.
  • I am amazed that Governor McCrory would appoint anyone to such a position that has almost no discernible record by search engines of any body of work. 
  • What happens next? Will the Governor McCrory consult  those who have traditionally  been a part of the process? Was he genuinely ignorant of that process or did he intentionally by-pass them? 
I find some humor in the idea that a governor would decry elitism since the political hierarchy to reach such an office as Governor generally saturated with it. 

While it seems to me that perhaps there need not be standard template for a Poet Laureate there ought to be at minimum some evidence that the individual has been able to successfully create a body of work that demonstrates a proficiency with the art and successfully publish attain publication.  The stigma associated with self-publication is slowly being broken down, but I should think that at minimum even with self-publication a strong candidate should have publication credits for various journals or reviews. 

I hope that this whole unfortunate mess will not sour poetry for Valerie Mason. It least for the present it sounds like she remains a devotee. I hope that people look past her and recognize that this was not of her making. The ball is back in the Governor's court.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Confession Tuesday & Gratitude Thursday

Dear Reader:

I hope you will pardon me if I attempt to kill two days with one stone.

Yes, I confess that I missed Tuesday's Confession because of the 2014 MLB All-Star Classic. Since baseball is simply poetry in motion, and poetry is so close to Godliness, I am relatively certain that there  exists a special disposition for significant games, those being any game that occurs between opening day and the end of the World Series. 

So much has happened since my last confession. One being a very traumatic start to the weekend when we were arriving at puppy class Saturday morning and newly adopted rescue dog named Silas got free from my wife and leash trailing behind him dissipated into a large wooded area behind our destination. We were in Gladstone, another community miles and miles away from home.  I confess that throughout the some 12 hours that Silas was missing  I vacillated between optimistic and pessimistic.  Actually I was optimistic he would surface, but not so much that he would be back home that night. 

I have to say we were really blessed by a large number of persons most of whom we do not even know that answered a call put out  by my daughters for help in searching. So many people, some we kind of know by name but not well and others who are totally  strangers to us. As I searched the perimeter streets I cam upon car after car with  stickers in the back window that Identified them with KC PET PROJECT. These people turned out in droves to help with the search.  Late afternoon we disbanded and leafleted and headed home. a few hours later  we were called back o the area because Silas had been spotted.   A couple more hours of search, all of us tired and hot, including Silas, we were reunited and went home.

I confess the number of  KC Pet Project people who came to assist  gave me more hope.  Silas is a rescue dog and he still has some anxiety issues. He is not  likely to approach someone he has no knowledge of. But he is dog friendly so many brought their own dogs on leashes.  In the end, it was my son-in-law Brandon who first  spotted him and my  youngest daughter (great with child) who carried him out of the woods. 

On another note, I am counting my blessings that a trip to my physician seems to have largely, for the time being ended what has been a two month period of ongoing and severe headaches. I confess that these headaches were taking a heavy toll on me. 

On the writing side of life, I confess to receiving one rejection letter this past week, but I now figure I'm due for an acceptance any day now. 

I've been able to take a few hours of vacation time. I'm often so close to my maximum that I'm having to take a few hours every week just to keep from being truncated (losing time)... In fact I got off at 3PM today! Yeah!

So this past week has really been a very good week it turns out. Not without stressors, but in the final analysis it has been one to be very thankful form.

Wednesday, July 09, 2014

Confession Tuesday on Wednesday - Karma Edition

When I get a headache I take two aspirin and keep away from children, just like the bottle says.

Dear Reader:

Had I not had a splitting headache yesterday (just one of many days lately) I might have made Confession Tuesday on time, But I didn't get it done yesterday and that's my story and I'm sticking by it.

It's no lie that I had a headache. I confess there have been many - almost daily and sometimes for much of the day. I went to the doctor this morning about the headaches as well as other things. When the assistant that comes in before the doctor asked what brought me in this morning as asked it she wanted the short answer, she said that would be fine. I said I was dying. There was dead silence.

I confess that  my assessment  was made not on the basis of any professional experience, but I have stayed at a Holiday Inn Express. Anyway, I may have been a bit premature in my demise as they patched me up and asked me to come back in 3 to 4 weeks; which says to be they think I've got at least that much time.

I reported to work following my appointment. A short while after arriving things there went south. I had an afternoon appointment that was rendered hopelessly impossible by virtue of the fact that out computer went down and out IT department was lost at what to do. I could not access our office e-mail, our case-management system, our Internet. We lost  outside phone connectivity and internal phone contact was erratic at best. The final straw came when I went to use the copier which requires us to log in by scanning  our ID card. The scan of course was tied into the computer system and that didn't work. At 3:30 we were told we could leave early. I might have felt this was a gift from heaven, but I confess that the whole situation was embarrassing  as I had an afternoon appointment  and could not even make a photocopy for the gentleman.

I confess that  I do sometimes think that  we have periods where we are blessed by good karma. I also think that  there are days when there is either bad karma or simply the absence of any nearby good karma creates chaos where order is called for.

Leaving early allowed me to get home at almost the normal hour by the time you factor in my stop for new prescriptions.  So  next, I decided to catch-up on the world around me. I confess that  it was reassuring  to find that order still existed in other places and for other people today.

I confess I read a poem after arriving home that touched something of a spirit within. Some people say that rhyme sometimes helps people recall poems. I suppose that is true, but I think people remember poems that touch something inside of them. Those are the ones that  three, ten, fifteen years down the road they recall. So this week has been one in which may days it was difficult to think much beyond the moment I was in. Reading this poem brought me beyond the place I'm at, away from the stress of the moment and transported me to another place and time altogether. Love Waltz with Fireworks is the kind of poem a poet wants to write and a reader wants to read. I confess that  this is a poem that my skin can feel.