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POETRY PUSHBACK

Dear Mr. Clarey, I’ve just finished reading the article “Poetry in a place of suffering” written by Christian Bry- ant [April 20]. As the publisher of Terri Kirby Erickson’s new poetry collection, In the Palms of Angels, I was disappointed by how the launch party held at the Derrick L. Davis Cancer Center was portrayed by Bryant. The title alone made my heart sink: “Poetry in a place of suffering.”

Unfortunately, the title set the tone for the entire article.

I don’t fault you, the editor, for not seeing the gross inaccuracy of this article. How could you know? How could your readers know, unless they were there?

Firstly, I would doubt that the hundreds of people who are healed each year at the Derrick L. Davis Cancer Center would refer to it as a “place of suffering.” This was my first visit to the center, and I was surprised by how bright and beautiful it was. This is clearly a place of healing where the focus is on living, not suffering. The auditorium was far from “bland,” even without the music, food and flowers. The event was a celebration attended by more than 150 people of all ages, from small children with their young parents to, yes, the “snowy-haired.” Why Bryant chose to mention only the elderly in his article, and say that after the Erickson’s reading “guests rush toward her on walkers and canes,” leaves me dumbfounded. This event was not attended by a few dozen suffering cancer patients and their elderly friends who shuffled their way to the reading on walkers and canes. And if anyone in attendance was “blissfully unaware,” it was not because they didn’t know why they were there, but because they didn’t know they could have such a wonderful time at a poetry reading, much less at a cancer center. Lee and Susan Terry filled the auditorium with lively acoustic music, but from the tone set by Bryant, readers might think they were playing funeral dirges to a group of “breakfast club individuals” who came for a brief respite from their dreary, doomed lives.

I know the time and effort Erickson dedicated to bring this large and diverse group of individu- als to her reading in hope that it would shine a light on this place of healing and hope, a place where she volunteers some of her time and experience. I know readers who did not attend, including yourself, might think this article was warm and sentimental, and that Erickson is a

college dropout saint for sharing her time with the suffering few in a dark and hopeless place. As someone who attended this event, Bryant’s article saddens me knowing that he failed to see, and then pass on to your readers, the light of Erickson — who returned to college after her illness to earn her degree and in recent years, as a poet, has earned a large local and national following that would make some best-selling novelists envious — and the Derrick L. Davis Cancer Center, whose staff focuses on life and healing and hope, not suffering.

Kevin Morgan Watson, Press 53, Winston- Salem

I would first like to say I am aware of your magazine since moving to Winston-Salem two years ago and have read it on several occasions — since I am not totally familiar with the politics of WS, some of your articles I am not able to fully understand, due to lack of knowledge of the past or present of these events and the “other side of the story,” but this article written by your reviewer goes way beyond common decency. It isn’t even funny or sarcastic; it is mostly untruthful, hurtful, rude and certainly does not qualify as journalism.

I attended the signing and I wasn’t on a cane nor do I have silver hair. The event ended up being standing room only and many of the attendees are fans of Erickson’s writing who brought other friends with them. If anything, I thought it was a well rounded group of diverse people who appeared to appreciate her work and Erickson’s warm, Southern charm.

I met her shortly after moving to Winston- Salem when I was volunteer at the Wake Forest Cancer Care Center — she spoke to our group of volunteers about her work as a volunteer at the Derrick Cancer Care Center at Forsyth and how the arts help cancer patients and cancer survivors to deal with their illness and survivorship. I know, I’m a three-time cancer survivor.

Erickson gave 10 percent of the evenings proceeds from the sale of her new book, In the Palms of Angels, to the Derrick Cancer Center Simstein Fund. Your “reviewer” also failed to mention that Erickson is a college graduate, magna cum laude with a BA in English/mass communication. The reviewer should have also mention her many awards for her work.

The use of “shuffling” fans with “walkers and canes,” “silver-haired” and other references to some people in attendance demonstrates the complete lack of empathy and disrespect of people in general. What did that reference have anything to do with a poetry reading?

Interesting that their age and physical conditions didn’t keep them from coming out to enjoy an evening of beauty and to listen to words that speak to their souls. Obviously, the reviewer doesn’t have one — a soul, that is.

You, as the editor, owe Erickson an apology.

Victoria L. Schwartz, Winston-Salem

I was appalled by the tone of the recent article about Terri Kirby Erickson’s book launch at the cancer center. The emphasis on canes, walkers and the age of those in attendance was much too strong. The article sounds as if the event was a geriatric gathering. Far from the truth; I was there and saw for myself. More importantly, Terri drew a wide audience.

Her poems touch the heart of readers of a wide range of ages. To describe John Ehle first as an elderly man overshadows any brief mention of his status as a writer. Other comments about the elderly pointed out irrelevant details. A notable omission was the fact that a portion of proceeds for sales would go to the center. While appreciate your coverage of such events, I was disappointed in the lack of sensitivity in this article.

Julia Taylor Ebel, Jamestown

Surely your reporter did not attend the same party that I did. I attended the Terry Kirby Erickson book launch party at the Derrick Davis Cancer Center. While I did see elderly people, I also saw people of all ages. I personally did not require either a cane or a walker to navigate my way at the launch nor did I teeter forward to have my books signed.

Your reporter also failed to mention that Erickson returned to school and finished her education when her health permitted.

As a former jounalism teacher, I valued accuracy and would not let inaccurate items be published. Obviously this is not the policy at your publication or your reporter’s article slipped through the cracks of your fact checkers.

Not only did this article contain multiple inaccuracies, it was offensive to Erickson and to all the attendees of the book launch party. Do you believe that blatant age-ism will attract a hipper, cooler audience? Most young people who are intelligent enough to read written publications would be offended at the tone and content of this article.

You should be ashamed to have let such an offensive piece of so-called writing be published and should hasten to retract, apologize and correct this travesty which you apparently call reporting.

I will certainly let all my friends and family know that anything they read in YES! Weekly cannot be relied upon and that the content is biased and inaccurate.

Judy Williard, Lewisville

I am usually a fan of YES! Weekly. However, I am writing to express my dismay at the article “Poetry in a place of suffering.” I can only assume this article was supposed to be a review of the book launch party for Erickson’s latest book of poetry. Instead it was pathetic diatribe focused at a group of elderly people who had the temerity to attend the event. I wonder if the reporter was in the same room everyone else was because these words had so little to do with the entire point of the event. Yes, many older attendees sat up front and it may have looked as if most of the audience was seasoned, if you did not look beyond the first few rows. I believe that it is both polite and customary to allow more mature fans and those with special needs to sit in the front rows, due to hearing issues, mobility impairment and so they can see the poet with more clarity.

We Gen X’ers and pre-teens sat farther back so we could be closer to the food, spike the punch when nobody was looking and stick our bubble gum on the bottom of the chairs. Had I known this soiree was reserved only for octogenarians and people who did not know why they were there, I would not have considered “crashing” the event and attending with so many other younger people. Unfortunately, it did not say age, infirmity and senility were the price of admission as your reporter intimated. I guess no one could see us young “whippersnappers” because of the traffic jam of walkers when they rushed the lectern.

The insulting tone and fixated, clichéd descriptions of the older attendees was not only crass, but quite condescending. How did an editor fail to catch this when it was reviewed? Shame on you.

If the only thing your reporter noticed about the party were some elderly folks in the front rows and extrapolate their frailty and senility for attending, then I am sure we were not at the same event.

This ageist, slanted review was peppered with insulting, erroneous assumptions. Further, although Erickson did have to drop out of college due to illness, if your reporter had bothered to tell the rest of the story, she went on to receive her BA in English (magna cum laude, I might add).

Finally, nowhere in the article did I see the fact that the artist donated a portion of her book proceeds to the cancer center-which I dare say was the whole point of the event and the trilogy of poems in her book, Cancer Suite, and the reason for holding the event at that location. All this was overlooked in this article. I guess your reporter was too busy gaping at all the old people to notice, or perhaps he had a “senior” moment as well?

I have seen so much better work in your periodical and this review was disappointing since it was just plain wrong on so many levels. Quite honestly, I expect much better from YES! Weekly.

In about forty years when Terri Kirby Erickson releases her 17 th book of poetry, when I am a “snowy-haired friend,” I am sure that I will “remain blissfully unaware” of why I came and I will “rush toward her on walker and cane to steal a moment of her time and buy her book”-just like a pack of LSD trippin’ baby boomers at a Who concert, or the 4:30 earlybird dinner stampede at the K&W Cafeteria.

Give me a break! And give me some better quality, more factually focused journalism while you’re at it. I know you and your staff can do so much better.

Susan Bloch, Cary

The book launch party for Terri Kirby Erickson’s book In The Palms of Angels was a very well attended gathering to honor Terri and her latest book of poetry. I’m not sure where the reporter who wrote the article was standing, nor do I know the age of said reporter, but I can assure you that there were people of all ages in attendance, including one 9-month-old baby. The reporter felt it necessary to mention that there were “shuffling” old people using walkers and canes, and actually had the audacity to call John Ehle “elderly” and wearing a hearing aid instead of mentioning his continuing achievements during a very distinguished career! The fact that he was wearing a hearing aid seemed to be more important than the reason he was in attendance: to honor a wonderful author and her newest book.

Trust me there were no senile people at the party, and I cannot believe the emphasis placed on walkers, canes and hearing aids instead of the true reason we were all there! If this is the type of reporting allowed by YES! Weekly I will avoid it like the plague from now on.

Sue Poovey, Winston-Salem

Redistricting back-pat

I strongly support the Greensboro City Council reconsidering its hasty and ill-conceived vote on Tuesday night to redistrict according to the Rakestraw/Burckley plan. City council should listen to the citizens of Greensboro in the first place so that they don’t have to have “do overs.” They need to quit this practice of ambushing our citizens and their fellow council members by trying to sneak important decisions through with rushed last minute votes.

Wayne Abraham, Greensboro

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