Letters to the Editor

Slap shot

“My 56-year-old dad plays hockey once a week,” begins a short essay by Rob Keast (“Poetry’s beer leagues,” Metro Times, Aug. 10), my friend and former student. A few paragraphs later, he says, “Yet, if my dad were an amateur poet ... I suspect the other spectators and I would all have been a little more embarrassed.” His thesis is that there does not seem to be any way to honorably write amateur poetry. Keast’s essay touched me because in it he struggles with the feeling that since he’s not in college any longer and hasn’t become a published poet, he has no right to be a poet or even to write a bad poem for a friend’s wedding. He contrasts this with the fun his father has playing neighborhood hockey in what he calls “the beer leagues,” mentioning the way the neighbors support amateurs like his father, and even enjoy watching them play.

The problem with Rob’s essay was that his conclusion is correct: He does have just as much right to compose amateur poetry as his father has to play beer league hockey. He was trying to get at a difficult subject: how alienated from poetry we feel in this 21st century American culture. But the logic and the defensive tone of his piece made me uncomfortable. It located, for me, a big problem in our culture, which is the way most people regard poetry, even those sympathetic to it: i.e. poetry is either the highest point in civilization or it is worthless.

You have to remember that people are embarrassed by poetry because they are baffled by it. They don’t know whether the poetry is good or bad. So if they like it, they are embarrassed that they might like something unskillful; and if they hate it, they are embarrassed that they will be thought too ignorant to recognize something good.

With hockey, they know by the score who’s winning, but more important, there is a clearly defined world of those who are amateur and those who are professional. There are known standards for watching the game, for judging it, even for arguing about it. Because the general population grows up knowing the rules of baseball, basketball, etc., we can more easily become fans of professional players because we understand the games and can recognize excellence.

Keast’s own argument, if he had thought it out carefully, contains exactly the reason why he should be able to claim poetry in his life as an amateur anyway, just as his father can still play on the local hockey team. It’s all about knowing and recognizing. Keast knows he is an amateur. He doesn’t need to feel embarrassed or defensive about his or his friends’ poems. It seems as if Keast ought to give himself a break and enjoy poetry, as his father now enjoys hockey, not thinking about how he fails to measure up as a professional, but remarking on what is honest and good about his amateur work. It seems sad that a college education would make a person ashamed of not being a professional at everything he does. —Diane Wakoski, East Lansing


Civil rights for all

While I share many of the astute observations of Mr. Lessenberry about the senatorial candidacy of Keith Butler (“Cynicysms & sacrificial lambs,” Metro Times, Aug. 24), I must register strong objection to the assertion that the Michigan Civil Rights Initiative (MCRI) is “misnamed.” This initiative seeks to eliminate “preferential treatment” based on race, gender and ethnicity and to install in the Michigan Constitution the guarantee of equal treatment for every person in Michigan when they interact with their government. What are “civil rights” if not equal treatment for everyone? It is wrongheaded to believe that “civil rights” are just for black people. They are not; they are for all of us. —Ward Connerly, Sacramento, [email protected]


Marching onward

I had the pleasure of reading Mr. Owens’ article regarding Minister Farrakhan and the Millions More Movement (“Marching again with Farrakhan,” Metro Times, Aug. 24). I thought that it was well-written and fair. My comment is this: It is going to take the collective effort of each and every one of us to make this movement a success, even after we return home from Washington, D.C. Minister Farrakhan has not sat down since the March 10 years ago and I believe that he will continue until he is no longer able. Each one of us needs to find that same drive and determination for ourselves — that is how we begin to make a lasting, effective change. —Camisha Muhammad, Tampa, Fla.


March out of step

Keith Owens tries very hard to find some worthwhile result generated by Farrakhan’s hyperbole and in the response Farrakhan seems to evoke.

It’s always exciting when people can get together to better themselves. And we love when someone, apparently almost anyone, stirs our emotions and our self-esteem. The Germans were also thrilled by the words of their own homegrown hatemonger, who, like Farrakhan, promised his people power, esteem, prosperity and influence. Hitler led his good people to commit some of the worst crimes in history and eventually led them to death and destruction.

Farrakhan is (as Owens duly mentions some have described Farrahkan) the same sort of megalomaniac, racist and anti-Semitic panderer and he really appeals to the worst in us, not the best. It is sad, actually pathetic, that he is frequently touted as the best-known national black “leader” in today’s society. —Stuart Sinai, West Bloomfield, [email protected]


A DAM fine job

Thank you for your in-depth and honest look at the ongoing struggles of the Detroit Artists Market. The only thing lacking in your otherwise excellent piece about the Market, with insights provided by many former DAM directors, was any mention of the marvelous Mary Denison. With all due respect to the former directors and their cumulative list of many talents, none of them could bridge the world of people of means with the world of artists like Mary Denison. Because she was part of their world, Mary convinced the people of means that their lives would be more interesting and richer by their involvement with contemporary Detroit artists, and because she believed in them so passionately, she made Detroit artists feel that their work mattered, both locally and beyond. Like many Detroit artists, I benefited greatly from Mary’s generous spirit and endless enthusiasm and I miss her presence in the Detroit art scene. —Lynne Avadenka, Huntington Woods, [email protected]


Dialing down radio

In regards to your recently published article titled “Radio Fever” (Metro Times, Aug. 24), I could only speculate that you are as disgusted with Detroit radio as I am. Despite the fact that our city puts out such excellent new rock, indie and electronic music, and despite Detroit’s history of excellent music in multiple genres, our radio has nothing to show for this. I came to this realization after my recent travel to Toronto where stations continuously pump excellent new rock. You can also find great hip-hop stations that play more than Mariah Carey-esque soul ballads. I find it sad that the only good indie-alternative music I can tune in on my radio to comes from the kids over at the University of Windsor or streaming off my computer. I mean, come on, you can give 89X an E for effort but the flood of Nickelback-esque clone bands that drown the airwaves have me channel-surfing with no place to rest. There are only a few hours a week that I can reliably get good tunes from local radio (Liz Copeland), the other is a syndication on a classic rock station (kudos for Little Steven and the Underground Garage). Unfortunately, the good does not outweigh the bad. Therefore, I conclude that Detroit radio sucks. If we want to continue our tradition of being known as “rock city” then our radio should certainly reflect that. —Greg Witkowski, Ferndale


Errata: In our cover story on Detroit Artists Market (“Board games,” Metro Times, Aug. 24), we incorrectly identified an artist involved in the Manufacturers of Real Excellence show as Marc Schwartz — the artist’s name was Marc Horowitz — and incorrectly spelled the name of artist Jeff Karolski. We also misidentified Marilyn Wheaton as director of the Detroit Council of the Arts; she was actually director of the Cultural Affairs Department, City of Detroit.

In our story about Emerge art consulting, our caption for the photo should have identified Nicole Wager as being on the left and Melissa Shulman as being on the right. The name of the Detroit Institute of Arts group they are on the board of is the Founders Junior Council.

Also, in our story on HotSauce (“Potluck melody,” Metro Times, Aug. 24), we incorrectly spelled the name and misidentified the talents of band member Jeffery Ponders II, who plays saxophone and keyboards and does background vocals for the group.

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