Belfast’s would-be poet laureate Barbaria Maria has resigned from the position a week after being appointed by the City Council. Her resignation came as a reaction to what she saw as damaging comments and treatment in the VillageSoup article that announced her appointment.

Maria was confirmed Dec. 21 and was slated to officially take over the position, receiving a ceremonial gold cape from outgoing laureate Linda Buckmaster, during a New Year’s Eve ceremony at the Colonial Theatre. But according to attendants, she resigned from the post at that time.

Maria declined to comment for a news story, but appeared with a number of supporters before the City Council Jan. 4 to rail against a pair of quotes in the article from City Councilor and nomination committee member Mike Hurley, and against the article’s presentation of details of the poet laureate selection process, which she saw as damaging to her reputation.

The article, which was published online Dec. 27 and which ran in the Dec. 29 edition of The Republican Journal, noted Maria’s was the only application received by the nominating committee, to which Hurley was quoted as saying:

“To me that’s a failure. No matter who applied. This should be something spirited and something lively. Instead it’s become anything but.”

The article went on to note that Maria, along with Elizabeth Garber, Karin Spitfire and Buckmaster, have been frequent collaborators under the name “Belfast’s Fab Four.”

Hurley was then quoted as saying, “I hope it hasn’t become an honorarium that a small club passes around. If so, that would be regretful.”

Three past poet laureates attended Tuesday night’s meeting, including Garber, who read a statement on behalf of several members of the nominating committee.

Garber said the committee received 14 “enthusiastic” nomination letters supporting Maria, who subsequently accepted the nomination and filled out the required application.

She asked Hurley to apologize to Maria and urged the Council to either form a new committee or ask Maria to return to the position.

“I enjoyed a few great weeks of people stopping me in the streets saying I’m glad you’re going to be the poet laureate,” said Maria, who spoke next.

But she went on to claim that VillageSoup had intentionally misled her about the content of the article and said that because she had not had a chance to respond to Hurley’s comments before they appeared in print, she had been left with no recourse.

“I’m asking for your help tonight,” she told the Council, “because this is a matter of public record. The only way to set that right is for someone other than me to put that in the paper as a news article.”

Maria thanked the Councilors for appointing her in December and asked them to “in some official capacity, take care of this situation.”

Of the councilors who spoke Tuesday, most expressed sadness that Maria stepped down and noted the value of the poet laureate position, but each varied in the degree to which they objected to Hurley’s remarks.

Councilor Roger Lee said he was “disappointed in Hurley’s comments” in the article but said Maria should be aware that the poet laureate is a public position and people are likely to speak their minds.

Maria responded that she feels comfortable being in the public eye but saw this situation as different.

A later speaker, Nancy Carey, who identified herself as a student of Maria’s, said she saw the laureate not as a public position comparable to an elected official, but in its original meaning — being crowned with laurel — as an honor.

Carey objected to what she saw as the suggestion that Maria was chosen because she was the last of the “Fab Four,” and while she believed that there was no intent on VillageSoup’s part to say that Maria was unworthy of the post, the inclusion of that background was damaging nonetheless, and should have been reserved for a separate article at a later date.

“If somebody is accidentally shot, they’re still dead,” Carey said.

Councilor Eric Sanders, who professed not to know as much about poetry as about his own creative pursuits through music, said he was moved after attending the last Belfast Poetry Festival and had been glad to share the experience with his daughter. He urged reconciliation among the parties involved.

Councilor Marina Delune said the article may have left readers with an incomplete or skewed understanding of the process, but said she read Hurley’s remarks as indicative of his frustration that the selection process and the fact that it netted only one application.

Several other speakers addressed the topic, including most recent poet laureate Buckmaster, who spoke briefly to say she believes the nominating committee on which she served followed the rules outlined by the City Council.

Past laureate Spitfire criticized Hurley for approving Maria without voicing his concerns about the selection process publicly during the Council session at which Maria was appointed, then disparaging the process in the press.

Kathryn Robyn took Spitfire’s comments further accusing Hurley of going “rogue” and asked if he could be censured by the Council. The request was seconded by Joe Stearns who weighed in based on what he had heard people saying at the meeting.

Hurley spoke on the topic several times during the meeting and was by turns apologetic and frustrated by the interpretation of his comments.

The former mayor said he had been unhappy with the selection process during past years and was unhappy this year when only one person applied.

“It had nothing to do with Barbaria,” he said. “I did not want it to in any way be a reflection on her and I’m sorry if it [was perceived that way].”

Later, Hurley expressed exasperation at the way his remarks were taken, saying, “I can’t get in a war of words with an army of poets, but that’s what I feel like I’m in.”

He called the idea of censure “ridiculous.”

“This has been turned into some ‘Judgment at Nuremberg’ about every poet and I regret that very much,” he said.

While the poet laureate position did not appear on the Council agenda, the Council took up the topic at the end of the meeting at the request of Spitfire, who asked the Council to take some action or give direction to the nominating committee.

Mayor Walter Ash noted the Council previously appointed Maria. Ash said he is upset one person’s comments prompted her to resign, but said he doesn’t feel the Council needs to take any action.

“It’s her call right now,” he said.

On Lee’s recommendation, the Council voted to reconfirm Maria’s appointment as poet laureate with a statement added by Delune, “that she is eminently qualified and recognizing her contribution over the years.”

Maria was not present for that vote, and attempts to reach her by phone and email for comment prior to publication were unsuccessful.