Sunday, September 13, 2009

 

Disappearing Acts: Poetry and the Washington Post

I've been home from Italy a total of six Sundays. With the loss of The Washington Post's Book World while I was gone, we are now to content ourselves with the back pages of the Outlook section on Sunday mornings, including a ridiculously foreshortened Literary Calendar. It was rare that the old Book World would review poetry in its pages, but at least our events would be listed in the Calendar.

Apparently that is no longer the case. Each of the six Sundays I have been home I have scanned the Calendar in vain for a single listing of a poetry reading. It is as if DC's entire vibrant poetry scene had disappeared. I was particularly sensitive to the question this morning, as next week's Sunday Kind of Love, September 20, will be a special one: readings from the new anthology Mourning Katrina: A Poetic Response to Tragedy, edited by Joanne Gabbin, the director of the Furious Flower Center for African American Poetry. I sent the listing to the Post weeks ago. But no, again, week 6, no poetry event listed.

I checked the Poetry News at Beltway Poetry Quarterly for comparison and found eight poetry events for the coming week, eight listed for last week.

If you dig around on the Post's website, you'll find a longer version of the Calendar, here. I counted six events listed there that include poetry. But how much traffic does the online calendar get, do we suppose? The link listed in the print version wasn't even correct. (Washingtonpost.com/Bookworld, listed in the paper, doesn't exist. The correct link is: http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/artsandliving/books/, then you scroll down and click "Washington Literary Calendar" in tiny type half-way down the page.

Nor do poetry readings seem to rank with their cousin art forms as "going out" destinations, as I've never seen one listed in the Going Out Guide, the Style section listing that seems to have replaced the late, lamented Style On the Go. I've filled out their form with Sunday Kind of Love listings and haven't even made it to the online calendar, let alone the print version. I even wrote a letter of inquiry, but didn't hear back.

What's up? I know it's a favorite pastime of organizers and event planners to complain of inadequate coverage in the Washington Post (I can imagine the howls of protest from yesterday's teabaggers over the Post calling their numbers in the tens of thousands, when the organizers had been predicting a turn-out of 400,000...)

But on behalf of the whole poetry community, I protest our complete effacement from the Post. I think it's time for an old-fashioned letter-writing campaign. Will you join me? Letters to the editor guidelines are here: http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-srv/edit/letters/letterform.htm

Or you can post a comment to the Literary Calendar: http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/artsandliving/books/. But you'll have to create an account and log in first. I'll write a letter myself and post it here soon. Also coming up: Why Poet's Choice should return to the print version of our city's paper of record.

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