Dear Ms. Graves: Thank you so much for your article on black children adopted by white parents ["Black Kids in White Houses," Nov 27]. I am a white mom with a domestically adopted bi-racial (black and white) son who is 2 years old. You hit it right on the head in so many ways. I can't count the number of conversations I've had with people important to me that have included the words "race doesn't matter to me." I know they love my son, but they are doing him no favors. I'm moved by what you've written and reenergized in this work by your reminder of how much work I have to do to be the parent I want to be to my beautiful boy. Thanks for your great handling of such a third-rail issue.
POETS AND WRITERS
Hi Paul: Thanks for giving attention to the Poet Populist program and generating a valuable conversation ["It Gets Verse," Paul Constant, Nov 27]. The whole long-ass thread (on thestranger.com) is more thorough, so kudos for creating the forum, however misguided your critique. Some notes:
•Candidates were nominated by organizations including 826 Seattle, ArtsCorps, CD Forum, Cheap Wine and Poetry, Jack Straw Productions, Vital 5 Productions, and seven others. Your criticism of "public poetry" as "almost always bad" is quite an indictment of these organizations and their constituents, not to mention 2,500 voters.
• I'm glad you liked the work of candidates Elizabeth Austen and Karen Finneyfrock; I hope you voted for one of them. You could have also supported (or just reported on) their candidacy during the election.
• How can public poetry get better? Artists should be beholden to their audiences (as you correctly quote me). Your solution, by contrast, is that critics interpret and promote incomprehensible poetry. If an artist can't communicate with his or her audience, however, they don't deserve a public audience for that expression. Consider Tolstoy: "The business of art consists precisely in making understandable and accessible that which might be incomprehensible and inaccessible in the form of reasoning. Good art is always understood by everyone."
• The goal of the program is not to support a medium or mediocrity, but to cultivate a relationship between artists and audiences. In effect, nurturing public art that means something. Too bad you didn't exercise your opportunity to be constructive!
Bob Redmond, Poet Populist Program Director
STRANGER: Re: "It Gets Verse": It's obvious that Paul Constant did not witness the rare moment at the last Poetry on Buses reading on November 7, 2007, when 3-year-old Augustine Tangas stepped up to the mic, smoothed back her dress, and rocked the house. Mr. Constant might not have liked the toddler's poem because she was likely not well published and only a "tiny amount of space" was permitted for her poem. The 600 listeners who packed the Moore Theatre that night whistled and stamped their feet after Tangas read. But maybe they overlooked "the bland quality" of her work, were already dreading the "tragic visual chatter," the scraps of "misread headlines," they would be sentenced to looking at on their buses.
Yes, you said it best, to seek out poets and "poke fun at them would be the most shameful kind of heartlessness." Pillorying poems as you did throughout this article is more tomato in your face than ours.
To The Editor: Your latest foray into "action journalism" ["The Inaugural Anonymous Review Squad," Nov 27] is interesting as an experiment, but all it really proves is that criticism, like any other form of literary expression, requires some amount of practice and "training" (for want of a better word) in order to be successful. A couple of the reviewers here seem to have that basic grounding, while at least one clearly doesn't.
If you REALLY want to prove your point, it would be a much better experiment to take other artists and have them critique work in other media not in their area of expertise. Have a writer review an art exhibit, have a painter review a theatrical production, etc. In this way, the reader might get a sense of how each artistic discipline influences not only the critical eye, but hopefully it might also provide clues as to how artistic vernacular, that is, the language artists use to describe their own work, might either enhance or diminish one's ability to express critical opinion about work not in their chosen field, and how that influences the way a reader might interpret that criticism.