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Web Letter

Mlinko champions poets who shun the limelight and refuse authority then faults the Academy of American Poets for foraying into the cultural marketplace to promote the work of the poets she champions.

She is hell-bent on picking a fight, here: what harm is there in seeding a "Poem In Your Pocket Day" during National Poetry Month? Why not encourage the masses to carry a favorite poem around? One glance at Poets.org and it's clear the Academy's not feeding them one kind of poem. Far from "cooked meat."

If a poet stood out on a street corner handing out poems, Mlinko wouldn't blink. If an organization (even a non-profit one like the Academy of American Poets) does it, Mlinko cries gimmick.

And Mlinko stops short in her beef, leaving out the programs of the Poetry Foundation, where she was a recent resident writer for their Harriet blog. But I suppose you can't bite the pure products that feed you. That would truly make her an anarchist--not the vitriolic critic she aims to be.

Maggie Sims

New York, NY

Apr 9 2008 - 9:39am

Web Letter

April is perfect for a Poetry Month: At one end of English is Chaucer's April in its nascient fecundity and near the other is Eliot's, in its mourning of that other's failed promise.

Ms Mlinko's objections are well taken. I don't read those poems (not through to the end, certainly) or go to readings where they lurk in plain sight. But if there were no Poetry Month, there would be the same contests and publications encouraging our own incarnations of Socialist Realism.

There are anti-Poetry Month poems, readings, contests, through which the anarchic spirits of poets not yet dead and gone manifest themselves. Good old dead Hegel is not gone.

Nor do I see anything wrong with tossing a few extra coins in the cup for the occasional poets among us, or inspiring young people to take poetry more seriously, or finding new readers for old poems.

Not to worry. Poetry will never lose its orgiasts, misfits, borderlines, crackpots, involuntary anarchists: Many of whom will discover themselves through their inability to thrive during Poetry Month.

I tried commemorating Poetry Month by refusing to write a poem during April, but that heroic effort lasted, like, six days. Lighten up, Ange. The faces on 42nd Street glowed in this morning's haze. That's all anyone needs to overcome the Poetry Monthers.

Barry Blitstein

New York City, New York

Apr 8 2008 - 7:48pm

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