My print column this week deals with a subject that comes up more often that most might imagine — poetry on the Opinion page. Most newspapers don’t publish poems. Here’s why. And the poems I mention in the column are in the previous post or you can click here.
A couple of weeks ago one of our readers sent a letter to the editor by e-mail. I never got it. This happens a lot. E-mail, it seems, is still far from perfect. Fact is the U.S. Mail probably has a better delivery average when you get right down to it. Speed isn’t everything.
So I’ll take this opportunity to remind readers to always call and make sure we actually receive the work you send when it goes out electronically.
Later, the reader sent another e-mail asking why his letter was never published. I got that one. The law of averages catches up every so often.
In my response I then urged Don Ward of Mebane to resend the letter. He did and it landed in my box just the way it’s supposed to. Sometimes things work, sometimes they don’t. I have no idea why.
But I still couldn’t publish Mr. Ward’s letter in its entirety.
After writing back to tell him the reason why, he submitted the letter once more with a note. Here it is.
“I’m resending this submission because I believe that it might touch someone, maybe influencing them to make a better decision. I know that you don’t normally allow a poem in this column, but the content is best expressed in a poem. I hope that you see to publish this even though it might bend your rules a little.
Mr. Ward’s letter deals with abortion, life and choice. It’s one of the most controversial subjects in our nation today and has been for decades. A Right to Life vigil was held on Friday in Alamance County marking the 37th anniversary of the Roe v. Wade Supreme Court decision that made the practice legal in the United States and we covered it.
Mr. Ward is on the pro-life side and his message was to those who would make the wrong choice. In a preamble Mr. Ward writes of “Mothers and life” and says “you might think it appropriate to consider some of the choices that are having to be made all too frequently regarding human life. .. It’s a sad time that our great country is being guided toward Godlessness by those in Hollywood, education, news media and government.”
Those sentiments are in line with a huge number of people in Alamance County and America. Most surveys indicate a group of similar size is in the pro-choice camp as well. Are there no issues anymore that aren’t completely polarizing?
So it’s certainly a topic suitable for the newspaper’s Opinion page and I told Mr. Ward so. The reason I declined to publish the letter, though, had more to do with a long-held policy at this and most daily newspapers. The last part of Mr. Ward’s letter was indeed a poem, and not a bad one at all. Then again, I’m no literary critic.
Either way, though, it crossed one of rules. We just don’t do poems.
The biggest reason is pretty simple really. We would receive dozens of submissions of poetry, far too many to print — or even sort through. They would address a vast menagerie of topics in varying lengths and in any number of creative ways. Some are very good, others not so hot. A few are OK but a handful seem more suited for the Poetry Corner segment on the old “Rocky and Bullwinkle Show.” Trying to determine what should or shouldn’t be printed would be next to impossible since, as I note earlier, I’m no literary critic.
Then, of course, every now and then an author will take someone else’s work and submit it with their name on it. That’s a major no-no and often next to impossible to catch.
I know it might seem surprising but believe me there are many, many would-be poets in this and other communities. Everyone, it seems, has a little poet in them when inspired by the right subject. That’s cool. As a means of expression there are far worse avenues to take.
But years ago editors determined that for the reasons listed previously it would be wise not to print poems. After all, it would be unfair to publish one but not another for reasons that defy explanation.
What I will do is post Mr. Ward’s letter and poem on my blog. I also have another poem sent this week by Ernest Morris of Burlington that I’ll put there, too. Readers can see both at madisontaylor.freedomblogging.com.
But I make no promises that other poems will join them there. After all, I’m no literary critic or anything.