Gov. Pat McCrory's office announced today that Shelby Stephenson of Benson, a retired English professor at UNC Pembroke, is our state's new poet laureate.
"We recognize that we didn't follow the traditional process during the last selection," the governor said in a press release. "However, this time my appointment comes from the strong recommendation of Secretary (Susan) Kluttz and the distinguished members of the selection panel."
"It's a wonderful surprise," Stephenson said by phone. "Surprises are always wonderful in themselves. To surprise oneself in a poem -- that's a wonderful thing. So, gosh. That's the way the world goes!"
Stephenson and his wife Linda drove to Raleigh yesterday for a Christmas party. Back home in Benson, he found a message asking him to call the governor.
Stephenson returned the call and left a message with his phone number.
The governor called back Monday morning shortly before 8.
"He was very personable and asked if I would accept the nomination," Stephenson said.
"Gosh, I'd be honored," he told the governor.
Kluttz of Cultural Resources called later in the morning.
"She was just beautifully informative," said Stephenson, "and she told me who was on the panel."
"The choice of Shelby Stephenson is a delight for everyone in the state," said Anthony Abbott, a member of the selection committee and a retired head of the English department of Davidson College. "He is the earth, a true North Carolinian, a wonderful poet and a splendid human being."