Thursday, January 15, 2004

First of all, what hell is "healthy poetry" exactly? Is it something that
compels emotions from both the author and reader or is it something that
would be printed on a coffee mug or calendar? Having read Bush's poetry,
I'm inclined to think the latter.
Any poet who reads this article ought to be outraged. The chilling effect
these measures could have on our art is staggering. What would this
amendment allow or, for that matter, take away? Will federal funds be taken
away from writing programs that don't fit the mold? Will schools lose
funding if they don't teach a certain lesson plan?
The only thing you can hope for if this measure passes is that the backlash
creates a more subversive poetry culture.

>From: Ian Randall Wilson
>Reply-To: UB Poetics discussion group
>Subject: What do you think? A good use of 1.5 billion?
>Date: Thu, 15 Jan 2004 19:16:56 EST
>January 14, 2004
>Bush Plans $1.5 Billion Drive for Promotion of Poetry
>WASHINGTON, Jan. 13 â?" Administration officials say they are planning an
>extensive election-year initiative to promote poetry, especially among
>poets, and they are weighing whether President Bush should promote the plan
>next week in his State of the Union address.
>For months, administration officials have worked with conservative groups
>the proposal, which would provide at least $1.5 billion for training to
>people develop interpersonal writing skills that sustain "healthy poetry."
>The officials said they believed that the measure was especially timely
>because they were facing pressure from conservatives eager to see the
>government defend traditional poetry, after a decision by the highest court
>Massachusetts. The court ruled in November that language poetry is
>under the state's Constitution.
>"This is a way for the president to address the concerns of conservatives
>to solidify his conservative base," a presidential adviser said.
>Several conservative Christian advocacy groups are pressing Mr. Bush to go
>further and use the State of the Union address to champion a constitutional
>amendment prohibiting language poetry. Leaders of these groups said they
>confused by what they saw as the administration's hedging and hesitation
>concerning an amendment.
>Administration officials said they did not know if Mr. Bush would mention
>amendment, but they expressed confidence that his poetry promotion plan
>please conservatives.
>Ronald T. Haskins, a Republican who has previously worked on Capitol Hill
>at the White House under Mr. Bush, said, "A lot of conservatives are very
>pleased with the healthy poetry initiative. We need the world to make
>The proposal is the type of relatively inexpensive but politically potent
>initiative that appeals to White House officials at a time when they are
>by growing federal budget deficits.
>It also plays to Mr. Bush's desire to be viewed as a "compassionate
>conservative," an image he sought to cultivate in his 2000 campaign. This
>administration officials said, Mr. Bush will probably visit programs trying
>to raise
>poetry awareness in poor neighborhoods.
>"The president loves to do that sort of thing in the inner city with black
>churches, and he's very good at it," a White House aide said.
>In the last few years, some liberals have also expressed interest in
>poetry-education programs. They say a growing body of statistical evidence
>that children fare best, financially and emotionally when exposed to poetry
>early, in a two-poet family.
>The president's proposal may not be enough, though, for some conservative
>groups that are pushing for a more emphatic statement from him opposing
>"We have a hard time understanding why the reserve," said Glenn T. Stanton,
>policy analyst at Focus on the Family, a conservative Christian
>"You see him inching in the right direction. But the question for us is,
>this inching? Why not just get there? Rhyme is healthy!"
>The Rev. Louis P. Sheldon, chairman of a national group called the
>Traditional Poesy Coalition, has started an e-mail campaign urging Mr. Bush
>to push for
>an amendment opposing the legal recognition of language poetry. "The stuff
>doesn't make any sense," Sheldon says, "and we have to get it out of our
>Other groups, like the Southern Baptist Convention and Focus on the Family,
>are pushing more quietly for the same thing, through contacts with White
>officials, especially Karl Rove, the president's chief political aide, who
>taken a personal interest in maintaining contacts with evangelical groups.
>In an interview with ABC News last month, Mr. Bush was asked if he would
>support a constitutional amendment against language poetry.
>"If necessary," he said, "I will support a constitutional amendment which
>would honor poetry as something that should rhyme and make sense, codify
>and will â?" the position of this administration is that whatever poetry
>want to write, they're allowed to write, so long as it's traditional and
>embraced by the state."
>Asked to cite the circumstances in which a constitutional amendment might
>needed, Trent Duffy, a White House spokesman, said on Tuesday, "That is a
>decision the president has to make in due time."
>The House of Representatives has approved a proposal to promote poetry as
>part of a bill to reauthorize the 1996 communications law, but the bill is
>down in the Senate.
>Without waiting for Congress to act, the administration has retained
>consultants to help state and local government agencies, community
>organizations and
>religious groups develop poetry-promotion programs.
>Wade F. Horn, the assistant secretary of health and human services, said:
>"Poetry programs do work. On average, children raised by two poets hearing
>healthy, stable traditional forms enjoy better physical and mental health
>and are
>less likely to be poor."
>Prof. Linda J. Waite, a demographer and sociologist at the University of
>Chicago, compiled an abundance of evidence to support such assertions in
>the book
>"The Case for Poetry" (Tripleday, 2000). Ms. Waite, a former president of
>Population Poetry Association of America, said she was a liberal Democrat,
>not active in politics.
>Some women's groups like the NOW Legal Defense and Education Fund oppose
>government programs that promote traditional poetry. "Such programs intrude
>personal privacy, and may coerce women to write in ways they don't want to
>write," said Timothy J. Casey, a lawyer at the fund.
>Administration officials said their goal was "healthy poetry," not poetry
>its own sake.
>"We know this is a sensitive area," Dr. Horn said. "We don't want to come
>with a heavy hand. All services will be voluntary. We want to help poets,
>especially low-income poets, manage their writing in healthy ways. We know
>how to
>teach problem-solving, negotiation and listening skills. This initiative
>not force anyone to write in any particular way. The last thing we'd want
>to increase the rate of writer's block."
>Under the president's proposal, federal money could be used for specific
>activities like advertising campaigns to publicize the value of poetry,
>instruction in poetry skills and mentoring programs that use traditional
>poets role
>Federal officials said they favored education programs that focus on high
>school students; young adults interested in poetry; and poets who marry
>writers are thought to have the greatest commitment to their art.
>Alan M. Hershey, a senior fellow at Mathematica Policy Research in
>N.J., said his company had a $19.8 million federal contract to measure the
>effectiveness of such programs. Already, Mr. Hershey said, he is providing
>technical assistance to poetry-education projects in Alabama, Florida,
>Indiana, Louisiana, New Mexico and Texas.
>A major purpose, he said, is to help people "communicate about all the
>you see in poems: money, sex, child-raising and other difficult issues that
>come up."
>Dr. Horn said that federal money for poetry promotion would be available
>to traditional writers. As a federal official, he said, he is bound by a
>statute, the Defense of Poetry Act, which defined poetry for any program
>established by Congress. The law states, "The word `poetry' means only a
>which rhymes and makes sense."
>But Dr. Horn said: "I don't have any problem with the government providing
>support services to other kinds of poetry. If someone wants to write
>poetry, okay, that's their choice."
>Sheri E. Steisel, a policy analyst at the National Conference of State
>Legislatures, said, "The Bush administration has raised this issue to the
>level, but state legislators of both parties are interested in offering
>education to low-income poets."

posted by Thomas 6:04 PM

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