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It may be poetry to you, but...


It may be poetry to you, but not to me

For a long time now, I have been puzzled and upset by what is bandied about as poetry.

I have been around a long time, sometimes I think too long, so I can well remember my college English classes that dealt with poetry. The teacher made a point of telling us and showing us through the person's poetry how such people saw things differently than the average person.

According to our professors, it took a long time and lots of training to make a really good poet. These people were usually born with certain natural talent, but then they had to be trained in the use of meter and rhyme, as well as how to use proper wording to allow a reader to get the message.

Lines were short or long for a specific reason and the final poem was a work of art.

Today, and for some years preceding this one, people seem to think that all they have to do is take a sentence, break it up into pieces, then list these pieces on a page and, voila, there is a poem worthy of publication.

The really bad part about this is that all kinds of magazines and newspapers, including yours, find reason to print these meaningless bits of trivia, thus seemingly giving credence where none should be given.

What caused me to write this letter was the bit you published on Aug. 25 entitled, "Say You're Sorry." This is obviously prose, simply rewritten to make it look like a poem. A man of letters was once asked how to tell the difference between poetry and prose. His response was, if you can arrange the lines in prose form and they read like prose, then the writing is prose. Well, this is a perfect example of prose.

My concern is that, since this is so obvious, do the people putting the newspaper together really believe this is poetry? Do they actually have no knowledge of Robert Frost or Carl Sandburg?

Were these great poets our last men worthy of publication because nobody knows anymore what constitutes real beauty in the poetical use of our language?

It is truly a shame in this day and age of so many advancements that we can no longer speak or write properly because no one wants to spend the time learning.

As a result, all are made to suffer in this great loss and most people don't even realize what it is they have lost.

Wilton H. Shaw


'Interpreting' W. E. B. DuBois

You reported Sept. 3 that the National Park Service had placed a plaque in Harper's Ferry, W.Va., "interpreting" a monument to Heyward Shepherd, a free black citizen of the town who became the first victim of abolitionist John Brown's terrorist raid in 1859.

The plaque includes an adulatory poem by W.E.B. DuBois. However, as pointed out in a Sept. 5 letter to The Sun on a different subject, W.E.B. DuBois was at least a Communist sympathizer, a recipient of the "Lenin Peace Prize" from the Soviet Union and one who repudiated his U.S. citizenship and permanently left the country at the height of the Cold War.

In the interest of historical accuracy, I think it only reasonable that the National Park Service thought police now place a plaque next to the existing plaque and "interpret" DuBois. After all, anyone reading his poem might not know the whole story.

P. James Kurapka


Had the South won

I read with interest Theo Lippman's analysis of Winston Churchill's speculation on the course of history had the Confederate States of America won the War Between the States, (Aug. 28). I would suggest that in addition to the abolition of slavery in the Confederate states and the establishment of a Covenant of English Speaking People, two of the most important elements of a Confederate victory were excluded from the article:

(1) Several hundred thousand lives, both North and South, would have been saved, and (2) constitutional government as established by our Founding Fathers in 1787 and abolished by Abraham Lincoln in 1861 would have survived.

G. Elliott Cummings


Marchione's task in Baltimore County

Continuity is what interim Baltimore County school Superintendent Anthony G. Marchione wants us to see as he shapes his reign. If the direction is right and the options are not worthy, that's a good idea.

But I would look around to be sure I move in a direction that is in the best interest of the Baltimore County students, their teachers and the citizens at large.

Revolution is not something Baltimore County parents espouse too easily. That's probably part of the problem former Superintendent Stuart Berger encountered. Systematic change evolving in an orderly manner is embraced more readily by any reasonable person.

This is the case in many areas. Even in the realm of technology we need to move the schools in a deliberate, creative fashion. I think Dr. Marchione was wise to abandon the contract with Educational Management Group Inc., not because it was deficient but because it was a hasty attempt to drop us into the technology world.

Reading, writing and arithmetic -- basic instruction -- and its funding need to be upgraded before we "surf the Internet." I trust the new Board of Eduction members will work with Dr. Marchione and his successors and abandon change just for the sake of change.

Jim Antal


The writer is a retired Baltimore County teacher.

Lounges for the smokers

I was thrilled to read in the Aug. 27 Sun about the smoking "lounges" where smokers can go and exercise their "right of freedom." If people choose to smoke, let them do so, as long as they're not forcing everyone else around them to smoke involuntarily.

It would be nice, however, if two things would occur. 1. Doors to such stores or lounges should be kept closed, with a separate outside ventilation system so the smoke does not get filtered back into other parts of the building. 2. Employers and insurance companies that pay for or offer health insurance should seriously consider "risk rating," by which higher-risk individuals pay higher premiums for health insurance

If people choose to smoke, that should be their business, as long as they're neither physically affecting non-smokers by smoking near them nor causing those who choose not to smoke to pay higher premiums to cover the higher cost of health care for smokers.

So let the smokers have their "havens." Just don't make the other 74 percent, the non-smoking population, pay for the smokers' habit physically and financially.

Jackie Holub


Cal's appeal no mystery

A baseball player has captivated everyone and his appeal should be no mystery. Everywhere there is evidence that our society is breaking down. There is little stability. Since right and true have succumbed to popular, celebrities have replaced heroes. Immediate gratification is the order of the day. There are few settled standards. And then one man with character and integrity quietly refutes all of this and reaffirms our faith in basic, old-fashioned ethics.

Cal Ripken is as "constant as the northern star/Of whose true-fix'd and resting quality/There is no fellow in the firmament" -- (Shakespeare: "Julius Caesar").

John V. Kavanagh

Chevy Chase

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