Modern PoetryI join the perhaps hundreds who...


Modern Poetry

I join the perhaps hundreds who will respond in writing to Julia Grimes' letter to The Sun (July 30) entitled "Gross Poem," castigating a work by newly-named laureate Mona Van Duyn.

As the director of Maryland's oldest continuously publishing small press, I receive about 1,100 book-length poetry manuscripts per year.

I get manuscripts from 70-year-old avant-gardists. I get manuscripts from 17-year-old arch-conservatives.

Usually the cover letters indicate that the sender believes he or she speaks the language of "real poetry." Thus, I understand that taste -- which is, to some extent, a recognition factor -- creates passionate loyalties.

I would like to leave aside the substantive issues raised by Ms. Grimes' attack on Mona Van Duyn's poem.

Surely dozens of readers besides myself will, by now, have mailed off their observations that the poets Ms. Grimes uses as examples of "unspoiled art," Matthew Arnold and Rupert Brooke, regarded the worlds they inhabited as deeply flawed, if not already downright "spoiled." Often the brilliance of their writing rose, like phosphorescence off a stagnant pond, from the reflection of such spoilage.

I would simply like to recommend that Ms. Grimes, clearly a person who cares about both poetry and the world of the poet, continue to read poems by Mona Van Duyn -- as well as poems by many other mid-to-late 20th century poets.

I feel certain that the discomfiture which this poetry arouses will soon be something Ms. Grimes comes to recognize as the true "fit" of today's world.

Clarinda Harriss Raymond


Equal Treatment

The July 29 editorial in The Sun condemning the insurance commissioner's recent ruling under the Maryland Equal Rights Amendment reads like a page out of the insurance industry's brief.

Use of sex as a factor in determining insurance rates is discrimination, pure and simple.

The arguments for sex discrimination advanced by the insurance industry and adopted wholesale in your editorial are identical to those used in the past to validate rates based on race or religion and are equally unconstitutional.

Statistical differences between racial and religious groups still exist, especially in the areas of health and longevity. But few would argue that differential rates based on race or religion are good public policy.

The insurance industry no longer condones use of race and religion in rate setting because it is not consistent with our society's goal of treating people as individuals rather than as members of a generalized class.

And like the statistical differences between races and religious groups, scientific evidence suggests that health and longevity differences between the sexes are more closely related to social factors than to biology.

In short, actuarial science is an art form, not the absolute science the industry claims. If the industry chose to do so, it could eliminate sex as a factor in rate making without harming consumers.

It has already done so in Montana, and the overall results have been very positive, particularly because so many women in part-time, marginal employment must rely on private insurers for health insurance.

Finally, the condescending tone of your editorial is perhaps even more disturbing than its substance. Contrary to your suggestion that women's groups don't understand the implications of this decision, after decades of work to end sex discrimination in all areas of life, we know full well the difference between a pedestal and a cage.

Helen Neuborne

New York

The writer is the executive director of NOW Legal Defense and Education Fund.

Governor's 'Gag Order' Misunderstood

The Sun published a piece (July 23) by me regarding Gov. William Donald Schaefer's "gag order."

I compared the governor to the chief executive officer of a large company keeping track of happenings at all levels of the organization. I used that comparison as an analogy and am fully aware there are major differences in the conduct of a private company and state government regarding communications with

the public.

What I failed to make clear was that I did not support the governor's purported policy. The Governor's Drug and Alcohol Abuse Commission found it extremely difficult to conduct business because of it. I visited with the governor and told him the "gag order" was hampering the commission's work. Governor Schaefer assured me that he had not implemented a "gag order" and I should not be experiencing any difficulties communicating with the public.

I asked him how did this mix-up occur? I also asked him how it was that personnel throughout the entire state system claimed they could not talk with the media because of the "gag order" that he said he never ordered?

Governor Schaefer said it started with a conversation he had with his press secretary. He said he was not aware of a lot that was taking place in state offices. The governor requested that a better system be developed so that he could be informed on what was being said by whom and to whom.

In translating Governor Schaefer's message to public information officers, it changed. The message came out "gag order" and the resulting media coverage snowballed the effect.

I told the governor that the "gag order" was not only working against the commission, but the state as well. The governor insisted no "gag order" existed. I noted even the perception of such an order made it a reality. He understood and moved quickly to make a change.

My point is this: The governor has a right to know what is occurring in state government. He does James Lasher not have the right to impose a "gag order." Governor Schaefer is a reasonable man charged with a very tough job.

When things have gone awry, perceived or real, he acts to make them right. Give him a little credit for being in a difficult position and trying to get the job done.

Neil Solomon, M.D.


The writer is the chairman of the Governor's Drug and Alcohol Abuse Commission.

First Amendment

When the matter is God versus government, The Sun seems to give the high priests of big government the benefit of the doubt, judging from your editorial of Aug. 10.

In that editorial, you argue that the top bureaucrat at the Department of Housing and Urban Development in Baltimore, Maxine Saunders, was right to order Lemko House to close down its chapel.

In a nutshell, you argue that the separation of church and state was instituted so that "people are not put in the postion of having to answer whether they are uncomfortable with someone else's faith."

I disagree. When a group of like-minded public housing residents agree that they want to maintain a chapel -- open to all faiths, as attested to by the Buddhist Lemko House resident -- the government is doing far more than just preventing the establishment of a state-sponsored religion.

In fact, Ms. Saunders' reasoning is a pernicious misinterpretation of the First Amendment which actually undermines its original meaning by authorizing state interference. Instead of protecting the free exercise of religion, the Constitution is being used to inhibit the practice of religion.

Surely, in this day of drug abuse, rising crime rates and family breakdown, a place of prayer is just the thing Baltimore residents need.

It seems to me that Ms. Saunders has played the role of the heavy-handed bureaucrat. Once again, an impersonal government bureaucracy has stepped onto the local scene and told residents what is best for them. And once again, the bureaucracy is wrong.

The Lemko House is not owned by HUD but was only financed with a HUD loan, and its residents receive rent subsidies.

To stipulate that the federal government can, therefore, shut down the private religious activity of a community carries frightening implications for our society.

Alan L. Keyes


K? The writer is the Republican candidate for the U.S. Senate.

Lead by Example

Your editorial of July 15 borders on the absurd. You urge city officials to reduce guns on the street with a "buy out" program.

Why doesn't The Sun lead by example and refuse classified ads for the sale of weapons?

Do something rather than verbalize, or is profit still your bottom line?

William L. Megert


Shades of Blue

Shades of the savings and loan disaster! What are we to think when:

* We see full-page ads from Blue Cross telling customers to trust them.

* We read that Blue Cross stiff arms the regulators, freezing them out.

* Blue Cross executives and directors camp on the governor's doorstep to get him to throttle the regulators.

* Blue Cross has a skybox at the stadium (assuredly not for the sick and healthy customers), just maybe for politicians.

* Blue Cross funds are siphoned off for flings in other businesses.

Any day, one expects to hear Maryland Blue Cross has been courting senators and congressmen and that Mother Teresa has volunteered good words about the company.

It's enough to make one wonder just how far we in Maryland are from a West Virginia Blue Cross disaster.

Gerald B. Johnston

Ellicott City

Olesker Pathetic

I'm writing in reference to Michael Olesker's column of Aug. 4, regarding the death of Demetrius Kastanaras.

I think it is pathetic. I saw no purpose for this column, as it couldn't hurt Mr. Kastanaras -- he was buried a week earlier, so he couldn't have read it. Mr. Olesker had to know it would hurt his grieving family, friends and co-workers -- not to mention his young son.

They just finished watching Mr. Kastanaras' agonizing last days on this earth with sadness and feeling the emptiness of his leaving due to cancer, and then Mr. Olesker slaps them in the face with his heartless article.

According to Mr. Olesker, Judge Martin Greenfeld tried Mr. Kastanaras and thought his slow, painful cancer was enough punishment. He wasn't a murderer or rapist or armed robber. He didn't live an extravagant life of a drug dealer. He was working every day and attempting to do whatever he could to ease the pain of his cancer.

I'm not even a close friend -- just an occasional customer where Mr. Kastanaras worked.

I knew him as someone kind and always managing a smile through his pain. I knew nothing of his past until I read the column, and I'll still remember Demetrius Kastanaras as a man with a lot of class.

Lavinia Poist


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