By Jim Schutze
By Rachel Watts
By Lauren Drewes Daniels
By Anna Merlan
By Lee Escobedo
Thank you for the article by Holly Mullen about the problems with the traffic on our neighborhood "M" streets ["'M' is for mad as hell," May 30]. We actually had police motorcycle patrols issuing tickets for running stop signs on the day following the Observer article.
I would like to clarify that the Texas Department of Transportation has recommended and funded a sound wall along Central Expressway's service road from Longview to Monticello, and most likely from Monticello to Vickery. Even though the money is coming from the state, and the Park Cities sound wall has long been in place, the Dallas City Council is taking no action. None of the traffic plans proposed by the Kimley-Horn consultants and voted on by the neighborhood residents completely closed either Monticello or McCommas. The worst case involved having to go around a block.
We are not trying to be an elite neighborhood, but we do want safety for our residents. We value our wonderful, culturally diverse area and are striving to maintain our inner-city neighborhood with a goal toward a strong and healthy Dallas as a whole.
Just like a poet
Isn't it just like a journalist to rely on credentials, to fall into the self-delusion and faulty dependence thereof, when any subject of even the barest intellectuality presents itself? After reading the hubbub in your letters column about "denigrating" local poetry in favor of the relatively minor achievement of a group of professors with the help of one of their former students, I reread Robert Wilonsky's article about the so-called Leaning House Poets ["Rhyme and reason," May 16]. Not only do I agree with letter writers Gordon Hilgers and Melanie Pruit, I have something more to add, a perspective which might help clarify an issue that seems to have been fooling an awful number of journalists for quite some time.
Most professors, especially in this age of budget cuts, are constantly fighting for both tenure and their jobs in an era particularly hostile to any kind of knowledge which does not directly contribute to the needs and requirements of the business community. In fact, cultural literacy in general has only recently become relevant because a number of icons of the business world have complained about the low quality of potential recruits.
What this means to the art of poetry is that the academic community, in order to prove its relevance and protect itself from a hostile society, has managed to turn "The Mother of Language," the most primal and ancient oral expression, the most complicated of human disciplines, into a cottage industry seemingly born and bred to improve a teacher's chances for tenure and credibility. Poetry, in this light at least, is really nothing more than propaganda, fodder for the hundreds of "literary" magazines which are of and for the academic community to the almost wholesale exclusion of anyone else who might try to make a public expression of his or her private self. After all, the only reason literary magazines exist is to provide a medium for academics to publish in. Few outside that community read or even know about them.
Of course, so-called nonacademic poets who wish to participate in this fraudulent game can enroll in any number of writers' camps where the professors can once again prove their "expertise" and make a little money on the side by teaching the unread masses how to write McPoetry or Poetry Lite.
Speaking of McPoetry, a highly fashionable genre of poetry which, like the hamburger, is practically die-stamped with an obsessive sense of mass production and reader-friendliness, without exception the poets allowed to participate in the Leaning House Poetry anthology follow the dictates of the genre behind the pretense of calling it "conversational poetry." Read any conversational poem by Tim Seibles or Naomi Shihab Nye. One will find a kind of sameness in any and all of them. The tone of voice is familiar, a little too much like the tone of voice in a lifestyles-section newspaper column. Of course, you won't have to put any effort into understanding this drivel, and that's the whole idea.
It's too bad that a once-beautiful and energetic art such as poetry has been co-opted by the needs, whims, and desires of a smallish group of academics who need to prove their reason for existing at the expense of the language itself. Of course, the real innovators have always been those who, for a variety of reasons, have been forced out of the academy. Dallas would do well to listen to its less domesticated poets.