WE ALL appreciate the dialogue among writers, editors, and readers. In the daily hue and cry of newspaper publishing, things get dropped, overdone, overblown, or (we hope often) executed with style, wit, and enthusiasm. We'd like to share a sampling of letters we and our writers have received over the last year or so, and also some mea culpas. We welcome your comments; we like to know who's reading the page, what you prefer, what bothers you. To us, every letter is a jewel.
Letters Dear Editor,
The enclosed lines should perhaps be called, ``On seeing the watercolor sketch of Helen Harrington in the Monitor!'' [July 12, 1989]. I have read many of her poems with pleasure - as you can tell, I am not certain I care to read [her] age in years, or see a picture on the Home Forum page of a longtime literary contributor.
I tend to enjoy such writers as I see them through their writings. Thinking of this, I found the enclosed lines coming to mind as I took my day's [mail] and lunch tray to the front porch yesterday - and scribbled them on the back of two envelopes.
For Helen Harrington
Perhaps we think that poets ought to live untouched by time.
We would not see them older than that young, young day when first they glimpsed in words the sunlight glinting on the eagle's wing
soaring to grasp for more
than a moment's treasuring - caught for us to share with them some vision of an ever-near, unfading spring
Affectionately, Elizabeth S. Lay, Gig Harbor, Wash.
Thank you for the most interesting article on ``Helen Harrington'' which you published in the Monitor on July 12, 1989.
As Iowa farmers of Helen's generation, we feel she speaks best for us. She is the real poet of the Midwest, honest and straightforward with a keen sense of the beauty around her.
Helen Harrington expresses the feelings of those of us who have roots in the land. Lately, Iowa has been recognizing the familes who have owned and lived on the same land for a century or more. It is something that cannot be known by the constantly moving urban population of today. We like Helen's poetry because it does not have to be explained to us.
We are glad you like our Iowa poet and came to visit her.
Sincerely, Curtis and Frances Frymoyer, Wilton, Iowa
I feel impelled to send [the enclosed lines] as a heartfelt tribute to Helen Harrington, written after reading her lovely poems which have appeared on The Home Forum Page.
Her poems, and the published interview with her at her farm home, blessed me beyond measure. What I gained was a richer understanding of humility; an increased understanding, compassion, and love of the whole human race; and I hope to walk the rest of my days with a softer step and a humbler heart. Who can presume to know the heart of man?
Blessings on the poets who know. Who take us where winds of longing blow and touch our hearts through our own unsaid with meanings more than daily bread. Appeasing the hunger that lies so deep Beyond the pledges we must keep - Freeing us for a fleeting spell to dwell in knowing We both know well.
Sincerely, Hazel A. Edger, Escondido, Calif.
The articles on poetry in the Home Forum section recently [Aug. 23, 1989] stirred many happy memories for me. During the '30s and '40s, I taught literature for 14 years in a small Ohio town. One of the requirements for each student was to choose poems from those we studied and learn them.
Sometimes the choices were not ones that I would have preferred. The boys tended to choose those with galloping rhythms, the girls those dealing with love - especially Lunrequited love. And I soon learned to require a certain number of lines for the semester, or all of the four-line poems would have dominated our English class.
When I return now to high school alumni banquets, the subject of learning poetry comes up frequently. ``You remember when you made us learn poetry?'' asks one of my ``boys.'' ``Some of us guys were hiking one Sunday, and I kept reciting a poem I had to have for class on Monday. The guys threatened to kill me if I didn't stop. See what you nearly did?''
Sometimes all of the class learned the same poem. At the time of the Challenger disaster, one of my former students reminded me of that exercise. One of the sonnets we learned was ``High Flight,'' written by a young Canadian aviator, named McGee, who died in World War II. The poem begins, ``Oh I have slipped the surly bonds of earth'' and concludes:
And while with silent, lifting wings I trod The vast, untrespassed sanctity of space, Put out my hand and touched the face of God.
When my student heard President Reagan conclude his remarks at the memorial service by quoting the last lines of the poem, he remembered those days during World War II when the words on the blackboard became his own.
I am grateful for the Monitor's Home Forum. I always turn to it first because - in this world filled with despair, cruelty, dishonesty, selfishness - it lifts my spirits and lets me keep my belief that there are still in this world gentle, kindly, good, and humorous folk who enjoy ideas, the world of the mind and the loving heart.
Sincerely yours, Sarah B. Dunning, Kent, Ohio
Dear [Doris Kerns] Quinn,
Bouquets to you for all the poetic treasures you share with us through the years! This letter of appreciation is long overdue since I have been enjoying your poems for so long in the Monitor. Your name on the Home Forum always brightens my thoughts.
``The Twilight Time'' [Oct. 19, 1989] spoke to me so reassuringly and with such beauty. Your poetry is a true inspiration!
Gratefully, Lucy Chambers Karwell, Camden, Maine
Dear [Steven] Ratiner,
I just finished reading your article ``Poet in the Classroom'' [Sept. 27, 1989, part of a continuing series]. How I would like to be one of your students!
Imagine a 75-year-old grandmother with your third, fourth, and fifth graders!
Who would exude the most giggles? Me or them? I am looking forward to your series on the first Wednesday of each month. Josephine Conley, Portland, Maine
David Mazel has to be one of the great writers in the English language. Who can write poetry in prose like he can? David Mazel's eye sees ordinary (?) human events rainbow-distilled and clarified as through a hand-cut Austrian crystal - or through human tears of joy of seeing the beauty of it all.
May the Monitor give us even more glimpses of this ``humble hero's'' vision. Marian Drake Rowell, Salem, Ore.
Dear [David Mazel],
Finding your two articles in one issue of the Monitor World Edition was, for me, like rain after prolonged drought [Aug. 13, 1989]. For many years I found your writings one of the finest things in this best of newspapers, then there was the long time without them, to my great disappointment.
As a writer you have the wonderful gift of painting word pictures so vividly and beautifully. But what is more, your own nature shines through as a man who loves the most important things in life, the simple and gentle things, and who radiates the loving compassion of God, who is Love.
The stories of Boo Hoo and Gustav brought tears to my eyes; a long-time farmer I too have a great love for animals, and people.
The closing paragraph in each of your articles are indeed a ray of hope to a troubled world.
Very sincerely, Doug Sandell, Australia
Dear [Tom] Simmons,
Regarding your article entitled, ``Brilliant Misfits of Prehistoric Times'' [Oct. 3, 1989], you didn't recall the title of the movie of whose plot you were describing.
It was made in Czechoslovakia back in 1954. Entitled ``Journey to the Beginning of Time,'' it starred James Lucas, Victor Betral, Peter Hermann, and Charles Goldsmith. The director was Karel Zeman. I seem to remember watching it back in the summer of 1964 or '65.
Until your article yesterday, I had never heard anyone mention this film or any of the other summer ``kiddie fare'' from way back when.
By the way, I have a daughter and son (ages 6 and 5) who are also crazy about dinosaurs. We have a few of the books, plastic models, and T-shirts required to understand these creatures better!
Regards, Joe Loring
Dear [C.W.] Pratt:
Thank you so much for sharing your poem ``After Pruning'' [March 28, 1989] with Monitor readers. I have shared it with so many people.
It offers such an encouragement to readers to consider the possibility of having a ``past/ Without great sorrow.'' I love the metaphor of the ash ``that will hoard for days/ Its re-hot core'' - that's how it is with sins overcome sometimes - the feelings linger and even burn, but they still are only ashes.
Have I read too much into your poem's precious orchard scene? If so, it's a sign to me of good writing: When you read it doors just keep on opening, perhaps even doors the writer didn't know were there!
With gratitude, Lois Rae Carlson, Ripon, Wis.
I've been collecting, sending, rereading, and enjoying [John Gould's] writings for two years or more. I include clippings in letters to friends far and near. I read them aloud to a special friend (she's blind and confined to a wheelchair) when I visit her each Monday morning.
John Gould's unique and imaginative vocabulary, sense of humor, and variety of subject matter delight us!
In a geriatric home, among the often unappreciated inhabitants, laughter shared is a most healing factor. I hope that John Gould knows what a lift his words give to many lives.
Sincerely, Margaret A. Wheeler, Waterford, N.Y.
Dear John [Gould]:
After reading your recent essay on field hockey [Oct. 20, 1989], having grinned, chuckled, and laughed out loud over the game being ``monotonied'' and roast beef ``surly ever since,'' it suddenly dawned on me that spread over most of my lifetime you have given me countless such lifts of the spirit, and genuine laughs. Now if a local friend were to give me even one such moment, I would be effusive in my thanks. Yet here you are, coming back again and again, yet never with anything except mental thank yous beamed your way, which you were probably never aware of!
My little 10-year-old granddaughter now plays field hockey, blonde hair streaming on these golden afternoons. I gave the article to her father, my son, who was brought up on your humor, and he gave it to her, and she's taking it off to school for her field hockey coach. How many authors would be loved by three generations in a single day? Gratefully, Jean Bergdorff, Murray Hill, N.J.
Christopher Andreae's essay, ``Something's Hiding in the Cellar,'' is very funny [Aug. 3, 1989]. Perhaps my own childhood memories amplified the humor for me.
I grew up in a small coal-mining town in north-central Wyoming. We didn't have a bathroom - we had an outhouse, some distance from the house, and having to go out there at night was a pretty frightening experience because my mother brought from the old country a store of ghost stories which she held to be true. My trip out there after dark was never a leisurely one; fear that [something] was out there somewhere just waiting to snatch some kid who had the timerity to be out after dark made the trip a fast one for me.
I never told my mother how dreaded those trips were. I wonder if my brothers, too, had been afraid.
Sincerely, Helen M. Kuchera, Irvine, Calif.
Corrections On the Oct. 30 page, ``A New Yankee Works the Land,'' we misspelled the author's name. The byline should have read: James LKullander.
In Lloyd McCune's essay ``The Randiance of Sainte Chapelle,'' [Sept. 1, 1989], the editing made it appear that Sainte Chapelle was a part of the Cathedral of Notre Dame. It isn't, but it is nearby.
On George Bajenaru's poems from exile [Sept. 19, 1989], we said that all the poems were translated by Catalina Bajenaru except for one, which was translated by Christiana Bajenaru. There is no Christiana - all the poems were translated by Catalina.
In Raouf Halaby's ``Bittersweet Thoughts of Another Beirut,'' (Sept. 28, 1989) the author states that Kamel Deeb, his high school principal, had died. Mr. Deeb is alive and living in East Beirut.
In Roderick Nordell's essay ``Jazz Gets Bach to Classics'' [Oct. 12, 1989], through an editing error a quote was incorrectly attributed to Gunther Schuller. The quote stated that the University of Northern Iowa Jazz Band was ``reputed to be the first college band in the nation to be formed to play a jazz concert'' and came from Lee Barron's book, ``Odyssey of the Mid-Nite Flyer: A History of Midwest Bands.''
Blessings on the poets who know. Who take us where winds of longing blow and touch our hearts through our own unsaid with meanings more than daily bread.
- Hazel Eager