Free verse
Seeing fellow poets generate ink in the local press is always encouraging, so I'd like to take a moment to salute Robert Wilonsky's coverage of the new Leaning House Poetry book and CD package ["Rhyme and reason," May 16]--but I won't. I can't. I can't because Mr. Wilonsky abused his function as a mere reporter by taking aim at literally dozens of fine, innocent poets who deserve better than to have their work so carelessly blasted just because they fail to live up to some frankly elitist notion about what it means to be a "real" poet. Those in the academic world, opines Wilonsky, qualify; the rest of us, apparently, can go jack it. Really, Wilonsky's position--that the only true poet (or artist) is one with scholarly credentials, while all others are condemned as "sloppy" and "confrontational"--is just foolishness. And I feel certain that the likes of Jack Myers, Tim Seibles, and Naomi Shihab Nye would agree: Being an academic does not make one an artist, and vice versa.

Furthermore, just how many coffeehouse poetry nights and slams has Mr. Wilonsky attended, anyway--and where? Granted, not every open-mic participant is flush with genius, but the Metroplex is still home to many fine wordsmiths (too many to list here). Far from being sloppy or confrontational, these men and women are often artful, eloquent, and persuasive writers who explore a variety of topics. Some write in exacting form, others do not, which is not to say they suffer a lack of style or readability--it's just their manner of expression. Also, many of these same poets have achieved extensive publishing histories without being linked to the politics of the university-press world--and not just by way of underground 'zines and self-published chap-books, but in such esteemed journals as The Wormwood Review, alea, Hellas, and the late The Quarterly, a smart, slick publication that could once be picked up at just about any neighborhood Book Stop.

What do some of our best local poets do when they're not writing or reading into a microphone? They raise families, waitress, work in bookstores, sell movie tickets, toil away at temp jobs. They don't just sit around, pen in hand, anticipating the next caffeine rush.

As far as slams go, my advice to those who don't like them is simply to stay away--but even they (the slams) serve a purpose in that they're one of the very few local venues where poets can earn money and practice their art at the same time--something which, by Wilonsky's own account, not even the Leaning House poets can expect for their own efforts.

Melanie Pruit

Her last nerve
Call me an incurable nostalgic, but I remember the good ol' days when writers actually reviewed music in music-review sections. I mean, that's what the public looks for, right? A sober analysis of the musical sounds, degree of craftsmanship, and song structure. Basically, people want to know if the album, well, rocks. For example, include which song had the most groove to it, which one was a little weak, which one should have been trashed to begin with. Perhaps compare the album with its predecessor, or with other bands in the genre, so one can get a taste of what the damn thing sounds like. But screw that--there seems to be a new manner of reviewing: the "personally bash the individuals in the band" way, and in the Observer, this is done Robert Wilonsky-style.

I have finally had it with Robert "my words are to be revered" Wilonsky and his haughty attitude, a guy who would scorn me because I identify with a particular subculture he eschews. Granted, the audience for metal is unhip, but Wilonsky's May 16 review of Pantera's The Great Southern Trendkill ["Trendy bastards"] was ridiculous, not to mention unprofessionally spiteful.

In most of Wilonsky's pieces, pretentiousness is passed off as credibility. Instead of a music editor who demonstrates a sincere passion for music, the Observer employs a would-be pyschoanalytical genius; a small-time cheap-imitation sociological commentator; one who nowadays would rather stay at the sidelines of music and report disjointedly from a distance; one who has become jaded from his insider status; and one who moves into higher-profile assignments with the same weak concepts (i.e. the April 4 "Mouse" cover story). But by being in charge of covering the entire music spectrum, Wilonsky has spread himself too thin: What he doesn't know, he invents by catering to stereotypes.

For example, Wilonsky, I'm sure you practically salivated when you received the new Pantera CD: Hey, a chance to ridicule, denounce, and spew venom at a band you already had a marked bias against!

It's fine that you're afraid of covering any rock-and-roll bands that do not fit the jangly, watered-down, alterna- mold; it's fine--and amusing--that you feel bitter toward those with youth on their side; and it's fine that you have been trying to prove to the public how vast and all-encompassing your "knowledge" is. But when you pass yourself off as the judge of the plebeians, that is indeed when the war nerve breaks.

Nadine Taylor

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