To the editors,
Neil Steinberg's article on Pat Smith [December 25] repeatedly gives the impression that she does not accept the fact that she did anything wrong in fabricating quotes for her newspaper column. This is untrue. I quote from a piece that appeared on Bob Holman's poetry Web site written by Ms. Smith: "I fucked up. I fucked up ROYALLY [emphasis hers]. I ruined a career I spent over 20 years building and irreparably compromised the ethics of an ethics-driven business."
Further, Steinberg, calling Smith "a toddler smearing feces on the wall," mentions her appearance at the Chicago Cultural Center where an adoring standing-room-only audience "snapped their fingers and projected waves of love." He is referring to a poetry reading scheduled well in advance of the scandal. There was no standing-room-only crowd. As much as it is possible to judge the mood of a crowd, I would describe it as one of wary attentiveness. Nobody knew what to expect. At this event she was similarly forthright in accepting culpability for her actions. Then she read a poem. It was humorous, painful, disturbing, and moving. I have never heard anything like it and I doubt I ever will again. Afterwards Adrienne Rich, who also read, expressed frank admiration that someone in the midst of such personal and professional turmoil was able to write so lucidly and eloquently about it.
Why don't you get off her back? She made a mistake and she's paying for it. What more do you want? Does she have to pull the trigger to absolve herself of her crimes against journalism?
By the way, I would like to take this opportunity to thank the editors at the Reader for leading off their year in review issue with Steinberg's piece. Just another example of your support of Chicago poetry. Oh, and thanks as well for all the fine reviews of poetry--oh, wait a minute, that's right, you didn't run any reviews of poetry books last year. Oh well, maybe in the next millennium.