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Read This One Carefully

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Dear Reader,

Kudos to Effie Mihopoulos for her courageous, eloquent poem in the March 28 Reader. It is no doubt a comfort to grievously wounded Iraqi civilians everywhere that--despite the very real burdens of lack of skill, lack of imagination, and lack of support from naysayers like Neal Pollack ["Everybody Shut Up!" February 28]--American poets keep on keeping on.

"Poets and writers...are making a real effort and actually trying to do something," Mihopoulos says, and in her poem she expostulates, "Stop the war! We want peace! Stop the war!" These are immortal lines, penned in the fire of adversity. They may not rise above the level of self-indulgent whining and simpleminded sloganeering, but what of that? They come from the heart, and sincere self-expression, unburdened by critical thought--or, indeed, by thought at all--has been the hallmark of successful protest writing from Jonathan Swift to James Baldwin.

I have only one quibble. Mihopoulos says, "Nothing can make [poets] / not speak up / against the wrong political party." Historically, this is not quite true. In many countries--Iraq, for example--poets and writers of every stripe have often been quite effectively silenced by, for example, being thrown in jail or shot. Indeed, even as I write, an Iraqi poet (or an American or British one, for that matter) may be shutting up permanently.

But otherwise I agree with every word in this wonderful poem, even those that don't mean anything. Thank God that Effie Mihopoulos and her ilk are using their considerable talents to make sure that the antiwar movement "is not," as she says, "a laughing matter."

Noah Berlatsky

S. Greenwood

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