Bill Moyers hits it out of the park, Rita Dove writes and Jeremy Bass replies, Wangari Maathai was missed, comments about our look


Moyers Hits It Out of the Park

San Diego

Congratulations to Bill Moyers for his outstanding article “How Wall Street Occupied America” [Nov. 21]. Moyers lucidly traces our society’s sad transformation over the past several decades into today’s iteration of the early twentieth century’s Gilded Age, when a tiny slice of the population was able to command seemingly boundless wealth and political influence. What’s old is new: we have reverted from being a “we” society to being a “me” society, with limited horizons for a vast number of Americans.



New Smyrna Beach, Fla.

I am grateful to Bill Moyers for two reasons. One, for giving us an easy to understand timeline of just how superrich people and corporations have whittled away at democracy. Two, for offering us hope by reminding us that democracy still starts at the bottom. Facts are important, and I want all the facts I can get. But I need hope. Without it, I will just come home at the end of the day, shut my door and be lost like some atom floating in an uncaring universe, unable to find another atom to bond with.



Oakland, Calif.

Having just eagerly read the articles by Bill Moyers and Richard Kim [“The Audacity of Occupy Wall Street”], I am moved to suggest a slogan: We Seek Fair Play. I would occupy, but I am 92.




Comment on Bill Moyers’s report on the origin of our current class war: an important source of the class war was Reagan’s trickle-down economics. It didn’t.




Hats off to Bill Moyers!



The High Price of Poetry

Charlottesville, Va.

Jeremy Bass, in “Shelf Life” [Nov. 21], takes me to task for omitting certain poets from The Penguin Anthology of 20th Century American Poetry, especially poets he deems influential during the second half of the century. Of course it is every editor’s prerogative to pick and choose according to her or his judgments and sensibilities, and I do not shirk responsibility for my choices. Germane to this discussion, however, is the extent to which an editor’s selection can be skewed by the anarchic permissions process specific to the American publishing industry, where the rights situation has become extremely unwieldy and cost-prohibitive. As I indicated in my introduction, several poets who were in the original manuscript had to be dropped because their rights holders insisted on fees that were far beyond my budget—not to mention that satisfying such unreasonable demands would have violated agreements with the overwhelming number of publishers, agents and poets whose generosity made the anthology financially feasible in the first place. Had Bass read my introduction more exactingly, he could have easily surmised that several of the poets he blames me for neglecting may have fallen victim to their publishers’ greed. In the end, Penguin and I decided that the many years of work on this anthology should not be scrapped because we were prevented from printing less than a dozen voices out of a total of about 200.



Bass Replies

Fairfield, Conn.

I give Rita Dove full credit in my review for explaining the financial reasons behind her exclusion of certain poets. If, as she suggests, readers are to “easily surmise” that other poets were excluded for similar reasons, how are we to know unless she tells us? As her letter states, financial considerations do not encompass all aspects relevant to the selection process; Dove’s exclusions remain worrisome precisely because they are predicated on a policy of broad inclusion.



Green Foremother, Wangari Maathai

Montpelier, Vt.

I kept waiting to read about Wangari Maathai in Mark Hertsgaard’s fine “A Great Green Wall for Africa?” [Nov. 21]. In 1986 she founded the Green Belt movement in Kenya, an environmental nongovernmental organization that fostered the planting of trees, environmental conservation and women’s rights. She was the first African woman to receive the Nobel Peace Prize (2004) for her contribution to sustainable development. Her ideas, already tried, could be part of the work of restoring land in Africa. It is a serious oversight not to credit her for the first major planting of a “great green wall.”



Bright, Organized & Simple, Please

Newton, N.H.

I have a suggestion for Mr. Ulmer, Mr. Voigt and other readers [“Letters,” Oct. 31 and Nov. 28] who want The Nation to look like USA Today: read Newsweek. It has recently revamped its format with full-page color photographs, unflattering and sometimes stomach-churning but always attention-getting. They have plain, easy-to-read articles meant for short attention spans; sloppy spelling (wanna, gotta, etc.); and the occasional swear word. When I first read The Nation a few months ago it was a transitional experience. I discovered I had to read each word and concentrate. Needless to say, I’m not renewing my subscription to Newsweek, but I will to The Nation.



Las Vegas

I agree with your readers who find The Nation plain and hard to read. In the newspaper/magazine trade, content (which you do so very well) and simplicity of reading are vital. Appearance is so important; keep it simple. Reading it should be easy, informative and quick. Make the magazine bright, organized and simple.



Oakland, Calif.

OK, my eyes are going, but I can put on stronger glasses to read The Nation if I have to. I’m a retired book designer—darn good too. I don’t read a lot of magazines because they’re filled with, well, junk. Bad, confusing design; colors that don’t work, because someone thinks it’s cool to select them on a computer; and millions of “fonts” (real typefaces don’t have names like that). I expect The Nation to be on the dense side because it has a lot to say. But it doesn’t look dense; there is air. I appreciate the design. I just want to read clear, intelligent articles in a peaceful setting. It is fine the way it is.



Wrong Time, Right Man

Mark Hertsgaard, in “The Keystone Victory” [Dec. 5], referred to Roger Toussaint as the head of Local 100 of the Transport Workers of America. Formerly the head of Local 100, he is now international vice president of the Transport Workers.

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