Letters to the Editor
To the Editor:
This is response to your article of today, about MySpace.com and teens.
As a mother of two girls, the most disturbing element to me was the obvious desire that most girls had to display themselves as sexual objects, as if this is most important about them, what they choose to share. A lot of girls apparently think that this is how the world wants to see them and what is expected of them.
We live in a commercial society where girls are groomed to see themselves as objects of desire at early ages, to identify themselves with how they look rather than how they feel or what they can achieve athletically, artistically, and academically. We are bombarded with sexualized images of females at younger and younger ages. We praise and compliment our daughters when they look pretty. Not to say that this is bad, but how many times do we do it, how many times do we praise our boys for their looks alone?
When we sit by and expose our daughters to network TV commercials and allow young girls to view magazine ads, we are buying into this culture and fostering this kind of behaviour in our girls. We are aiding the media machines to groom our girls to aspire to become objects and grooming our boys to expect girls to act and dress these ways.
As parents, we need to talk to our children about what these images mean, if they are seeing them, and how the images make them feel. We need to encourage creative activity and reward our girls for achievements and positive assertive behavior. I know it's hard to monitor everything our kids see, but if we want to make a difference in how our girls see themselves and how boys see them, then we must try.
Here are the names of some helpful and informative web sites and publications I've found for parents of girls: dadsanddaughters.com, newmoon.org (magazine for girls), and girls Inc.
We can make a difference.
Why create a fuss?
To the Editor:
I am 16 years old and attend the MVRHS. As soon as I heard about the article going into the paper about the web site Myspace and its influence on teenagers, I knew it wasn't going to be pretty. When at last I was able to read it, I was shocked and outraged at writer Nis Kildegaard's conclusion as to how this type of web site affects teenagers. He seems to say that every kid on Myspace is doing these stupid things, when that is not the case at all. Most kids are only friends [online] with people that they see on a daily basis. The Myspace fad will pass in time just like LiveJournal, or hotornot.com, and then another trend will pick up.
I do admit that it is the fault of the teens "exposed" in the article, but why create such a big fuss? To any parent that is outraged by girls dressing skimpy, teens smoking pot or drinking, they probably don't have a teenager of their own. The fact that these things are happening in teenage life is in no way a shocker at all, and if it is, then you're living in denial. The only thing that Myspace provides that is different from the past is it allows you to document the things that you do. Change will happen no matter what. I really don't appreciate someone that goes out of his way to make the people of my generation look bad.
To the Editor:
Word of mouth at MVRHS travels nearly as fast as it does on the Internet. Before second period on Thursday, I had heard about Mr. Kildegaard's article on Island teens and Myspace.com and read a copy printed from the Internet.
I was shocked by the insensitive tone of the piece and horrified to think of the ramifications of taking some perhaps unwise content posted by minors on the Internet and printing it in the local paper for all to see. Mr. Kildegaard may not have broken Myspace's terms of service or privacy restrictions, but he has violated the Society of Professional Journalist's code of ethics which includes a minimize harm clause, "Show compassion for those who may be affected adversely by news coverage. Use special sensitivity when dealing with children and inexperienced sources or subjects."
I don't believe that when writing this article, the journalist fully considered the ramifications of mentioning a homosexual student. Even if he has come out online, it doesn't necessarily mean he's ready to have it announced to everyone he knows, especially in a community where a gay young man committed suicide not too long ago. And while several female minors were unwise enough to post risqué photographs online, that does not justify the second wrong of a middle-aged man taking it one step further and publishing them without the basic courtesy of asking permission or even giving a fair warning.
While it is worthwhile to warn parents about online safety for their children, the safest way to go about this is probably not to publish the worst of these mistakes for a tight-knit community to see, as well as an even larger community of online Times readers. "Myspace.com is their space for Island teens" has a lot of shock value and a lot of potential for causing serious harm and not a lot of new information. Yes, kids on the Island drink, smoke, and have sex. They lie to their parents and they exaggerate escapades to their friends. Not a lot has changed since the time when our parents were young and insecure of their place in the world.
To the Editor:
Fuddy-duddy much? I hear the Internet is scary. Voyeurism is a part of what makes web sites like Myspace and the Internet as a whole intriguing and potentially dangerous, but that is not the whole story. The articles about Myspace left me feeling uncomfortable. The main reason even the interviewees gave for using Myspace is to communicate with peers. Yet Nis Kildegaard's article fell just short of giving the stats on what percentage of girls were in their undies versus clothed. Some creepy people are probably thanking The Times for showing them how to mouse their way to Myspace hotties. It was the voyeurism of the article that irked me.
Yet another example of older people immediately assuming the worst when they see young people gathering for fun. Myspace is so popular because it offers a rich environment in which to interact with others. Myspace is so popular because anyone who has written a song can create a music profile page where the world can hear their music. I love Myspace for that very reason.
Rather than focus the public gaze, eyes agape, at the seedy underbelly of Myspace, at the sex and drugs, The Times could have done a story about dozens of local musicians and artists who have a free place to showcase themselves there.
And come on. Teenagers drink and have sex - shocker. Didn't you when you were a teenager? Attempts to drive those behaviors underground do simply that. One message the article seemed to have for kids was just to be more cunning about hiding from parents.
Rather than do the public service of warning people to practice safe Internet, the article seemed to mock young people. The Times made a feeble attempt to guard anonymity of the people whose photos or profiles were shown. Nis Kildegaard might feel a bit violated if he were to find pictures of himself at a yoga retreat published in a paper. Location, location, location. Context, context, context.
The Internet may be a big bad world full of stalkers, but are we really forewarned and better served by printing pictures of local teens in lingerie?
Preying on teens
To the Editor:
It appears in the recent article on Myspace.com that The Martha's Vineyard Times is preying on teens to sell newspapers. Was it really necessary to humiliate Island teens in front of the entire community to drive home the point of Internet safety?
With his choice of photos and quotes, Nis Kildegaard seemed more intent on making a value judgment on the teens' moral behavior rather than depicting unwise Internet use. Could he have found a less hurtful way to illustrate his message?
Mr. Sigelman's use of parents of younger children (Island Moms Surprised by What They See) only served to incite fear and to insult parents of teens. "I'd like to know at what point the parents stopped being involved in their kids life..." That's enough to make any parent's blood boil.
While embarrassing these teens, your paper has once again magnified an example of negative behavior of teens. Instead of filling three pages with this hysteria, try mentioning the many positive accomplishments and pursuits of our local youth once in awhile. The lesson here for these kids goes way beyond Internet use.
To the Editor:
I wholeheartedly agree that parents should be more aware of how their underage children are presenting themselves on Myspace.com, and I'm glad that was well addressed in the last issue of The Times. However, for all the space dedicated to getting that point across, there was nothing mentioned of all the Island children (and adults) who are using Myspace for positive reasons, such as sharing their music and art and thoughts on community through this popular forum.
On the web site you will find that much of the Island population is benefiting socially and artistically by having a place to share the music & art they make (free of charge) with friends and others (even internationally) who enjoy and encourage their creativity. Many established Vineyard artists (Kate & Ben Taylor, The Unbusted, Kahoots & Evan Dando, also community radio station WVVY) are able to engage in dialogues with fans and supporters through this online community. Both WVVY and my own production company have successfully used Myspace to spread the word about all-ages and other community events, concerts, and fundraisers.
The bottom line is that I wish at least one of your five pieces about Myspace were dedicated to how the benefits of the Myspace community can, and do, outweigh the negative aspects of the site.
After all, we are all fully aware that far worse is available to these children on the internet with the simple click of a button, and now The Martha's Vineyard Times has fully embarrassed this entire younger crowd by making them the targets of those articles. Perhaps you should have pointed out some of the right reasons to be using Myspace instead of condemning all of these young people for what a few have done.
To the Editor:
In regards to the Myspace column, I believe it was a strike at the Island's youth.
I don't understand why someone would take personal information that people post online and make it a public matter.
Myspace isn't just for chat and pictures. It's the new way to communicate. We live in a very small community, and to put pictures of us kids in the paper with blurred faces isn't going to work. I know I can say a very good amount of kids and parents knew who were in those pictures, especially with the obvious information provided.
If this was an interest in what the teens do then why did they use a picture of a 20-year-old who lives in England and is legally allowed to drink there. Not to mention, he also is serving his country in Iraq right now.
I don't believe it was a good way to make the point that things need to be done about certain situations. I can understand the need to know what's going on in kids' lives, but, just as what was said, it's tempting to go and read the diary under the bed. Well these are our diaries online; it's all the same.
To the Editor:
If the intent of your article was to wake up some teenagers to the fact that their personal lives were being broadcast all over the Internet, there were so many other ways you could have done it than to broadcast it all over the Island. You have no idea what monsters you may have unleashed.
Did you ask the gay young man if he had come out to his parents? Or to his classmates for that matter? What about the suicidal young woman? I read your tacky (and by the way copycatted) expose last night, and dread went through my body. Has it been so long since you were in high school, trying to figure out who you were and where you were going? I know I still remember the anguish of those days. The first reactions I heard from some of the students was their concern for their friends, especially the two mentioned above. Maybe they were goofing, maybe they were serious.
If your concern were that some of these kids are at risk - of suicide, of alcohol or drug abuse - wouldn't it have been more appropriate to share your concerns with guidance counselors?
And please, let's dispense with the fiction that you have disguised the identlties of the people you wrote about, whose photos you printed. Everybody in the high school knows who everyone in the article is, and anybody else who wants to know can easily find out.
I certainly agree these young people need to realize their most private, possibly overly exaggerated journal entries are not password protected. What they assumed to be private has turned out to not be so private, as your voyeuristic investigation proves. But it's also true that they had a degree of virtual privacy, which is now gone. What was your point in destroying that?
If your idea was to humiliate students at the high school you certainly did that. You have done the equivalent of displaying their personal diaries to everyone on this Island. How many of them do you think were goofing? How many of them are "prone to bragging about adult behavior in an attempt to be 'cool.'" This brings a risk: "Because it is an enclosed Island, a reputation can develop, and then they can be prejudged on their stories, their bragging." Ms. MacElroy said it right there.
It would be nice to think that a newspaper also has some kind of trust with the community it serves. How sad to see the Times debasing itself with a down market facsimile of "gotcha" paparazzi journalism. Next time, how about a little more original insight, and a lot less leering at young girls in their underclothes?
To the Editor:
Concerning the article about Myspace.com, I found it to be quite eye opening and frightening for parents. Having five children who currently use this web site, I was appalled by how some use this web site.
Although I understand the message the writer was sending to parents, I cannot help but feel it could have been handled in a different manner. The photos, though somewhat masked, were still quite clear to such a small community, and those who were portrayed, their identities are indeed well known. Children need to learn from their mistakes but not by being publicly humiliated.
Also upsetting was a picture of my own son sporting beer. The writer posed him as a high school student. Not true. What was not stated was that he is 20, of legal drinking age where he was stationed at the time. It also neglected to state he uses this site as a means of keeping in touch with his friends and family while he is outside the country. Nor does it mention he is currently serving his country in Iraq, which he states right on his web site page.
Although both my son and I are not proud of his actions, nor do I condone them, it is a valuable learning experience for him and others. I am proud of my son and the man he is becoming. One photo does not tell about the whole person, but one photo can unfortunately paint a bad reputation that can stay with us for a long time. Lesson learned.
Web sites are public knowledge, and children who use them need to understand this. It is just too bad that in regard to the girls portrayed in the article, the writer could not have chosen pictures of off-Island students. The article would have served the same purpose, a warning and an eye-opener to parents and students, without sacrificing the public humiliation of someone's child.
To the Editor:
One fact that I would like to add to my recent letter is that alcohol was involved in the accident that happened to me a few weeks ago, and I do not want it to sound that it was not a factor in the accident. Was it the right decision to get behind the wheel after a few drinks? No. I was extremely lucky to walk away.
So, as for a message that I would like to say is, please, do not drink and drive, as well as use your seatbelt.
There is nothing good that came out of the accident. I could have injured others or even worse, and I am thankful every day that that did not happen. I realize that maybe I should have learned a bigger lesson from KJ and Deebo, about not using alcohol while driving, as well as wearing my seatbelt.
But, I made a bad decision and now am dealing with the ramifications. I hope others can learn from my mistakes so that this does not have to happen to them. Too much can be lost from getting behind the wheel under the influence. That, as well as buckling your seatbelt, is the message that I would like to put forth. If you consume any alcohol do not drive. Call a family member, a cab, or someone who is sober. Too many lives have been lost or damaged due to poor decisions made under the influence involving automobiles.
Chilmark and Palm City, Florida
To the Editor:
It was late in the afternoon of Ash Wednesday, when Anne and I saw smoke, then fire billowing out of our wood burning stove's chimney. Anne said, "Call 911", which I did and gave my name, address, and our fire problem to an officer, who said, "I'll take care of it." He certainly did .Within minutes, fire Chief John Schilling and his pale green fire engine were in the driveway. Looking down the driveway, there was Tim Stobie directing traffic and Jeff Pratt with his ambulance.
Chief Schilling and his firefighters then went to work with the precision of a Broadway chorus line. Firefighters were in the house, making sure no person or animal was inside, putting out the fire in the stove, laying covering down to protect the floors and taking the charred logs outside. Ladders were then put against the house and firefighters were on the roof, putting out any fire and then inspecting the chimney to make sure all was safe. Thankfully, the crisis was over.
To add a little more drama, our daughter, Samantha, and her husband, Michael, had just arrived on the Island and were driving to our home, when they were overtaken on the Edgartown Road by a fire engine, police cruiser and ambulance which led them to our home. Not knowing what was happening, Samantha and Michael were quite relieved to see us walk out of the house. Samantha even had a little reunion with some of the firefighters with whom she had gone to high school.
Our great thanks to Chief John Schilling, Assistant Chief Thomas Colligan, Assistant Chief James Rogers, Captain Domenic Fullin, Captain Russell Maciel, Lieutenant Kenneth Maciel, Lieutenant Gary Sylvia, Firefighter Chris Kann, Firefighter Jakob Levett, Firefighter Troy Maciel, and Darren Welch.
We shall be eternally grateful for all your dedicated work for Tisbury and the Island in the past, present and the future. We salute you.
Anne and Mev Good
To the Editor:
In response to the Letter to the Editor from Walter Hammond of Oak Bluffs, first and foremost, I salute him. One would hope that in a family-oriented community such as Martha's Vineyard, this far too common double standard wouldn't exist. Perhaps my story, which supports his commentary, will offer yet another perspective.
I moved to the Island a few years ago. I was on a medication that I had a varying reaction to. At my doctor's advice, I was to wait 30 minutes and have another adult present before driving (I was never advised to discontinue the medication. I am much more participatory in my medical treatments today.) I took the medication and waited over one hour. I was fine.
I buckled in my two children and started towards the ferry from Edgartown. Half way down, I had an extremely adverse reaction and lost all gross and fine motor skills. My mind was completely clear, but to my horror, my body would not obey. I could not speak clearly and sought a place to pull over. Being new to the Island and just realizing how narrow the streets were, I drove at approximately 12 miles per hour until I found an open pier to stop.
I thank God there wasn't an accident and no one was hurt. Nonetheless, within seconds, I was surrounded by police and two terrified young children. My speech was impaired as I tried to explain that I needed medical attention. I was unable to convey that I needed medical attention. I was treated as though I had just robbed a bank. Four cruisers surrounded my vehicle, and I remember the officer forcing me to take a sobriety test although I was able to convey that the medication affects one's ability to walk, talk, or even move.
I was immediately jailed, and the state Division of Social Services was called, and I am still fighting for my children today. The medication, which I wouldn't use today to save my life, is short-acting and had worn off by the time I got to jail. I didn't know anyone who knew anyone on the Island, and to the law I was just some second-rate single mother on welfare, and I even heard them talking about me at the prison. One officer stated, "Check her arms, she's probably loaded with tracks." I was beyond humiliated, and my children have been severely traumatized - not by that day, but how DSS has handled (or should I say, failed to handle) their fate since then. The real irony is that when all the court hearings were finished, I was found not guilty of being under the influence although I admittedly and obviously was and was initially grateful the officers were there to help my children. I had no idea what was in store for my children when DSS stepped in.
I was so infuriated reading the letter to know that this woman, according to the letter, is in all probability home with her children and knows someone who knows someone, while I am a single mother of limited resources, and my children's lives have been torn apart as a result of that afternoon over two years ago. I would encourage you to not be so quick to suggest DSS. They are not the best solution to such a situation.
My experience has been that they take a very punitive stand, especially against mothers, when it has anything to do with drugs and alcohol - more so than any fathers in a duplicate situation. Don't misunderstand me, no child should ever be in danger because of an irresponsible adult under the influence of anything; however, after interviewing over 53 women having DSS involvement, DSS is a family hindrance, not help, when it comes to substance abuse problems. Removing one's otherwise un-neglected, loved, nourished and thriving children is their first reaction. I grew up believing DSS was a family-helping organization, and they could save so much time and money by providing family services and giving help to parents who are serious about addressing any areas of parenting they may fall short in. Then again, wouldn't that be every parent in some area?
In conclusion, although I disagree with contacting DSS, I certainly understand the outrage regarding the two sets of rules, as it is an obvious and dangerous reality, even on our beautiful Island, one the best places in the state to raise children.
In addition to your concern, the officers involved (providing the facts are exactly as stated, according to the scanner) are required by law, as mandated reporters, to contact DSS. Again, if the facts are exactly as Mr. Hammond says, the officers involved failed to adhere to the law if a child or children were found even at risk, much less actually in danger, by not reporting the situation.
To leave everyone with something to think about; we are all personally responsible for the safety and wellbeing of our children; however, it takes a village, and if you know your neighbor is in trouble, how about lending a loving hand instead of taking their children away?
Weather, not alcohol
led to crash
To the Editor:
Hope Hushion is a personal friend of mine, and I was very upset to read the article about the Chilmark Police department's response to Hope's car accident in your March 2 edition of The Martha's Vineyard Times. I am shocked that she was actually charged with driving under the influence, negligent operation of a motor vehicle, and not wearing a seatbelt. It is my understanding that Hope partook in one beer during a long meeting before she got into her car. Her blood alcohol content could not have been too high.
When she left Vineyard Haven to drive to Chilmark (to go take care of the dogs belonging to her other employer, who was out of town), it was at the tail end of an over-two-hour snowstorm that began around 4 pm and ended around 6:30 pm. The roads were icy and dangerous, and it was getting dark. Hope was driving on South Road near Meetinghouse Road - a dark and windy journey even without the snow and ice. I personally drove that car during the previous snowstorm, and I noticed that it slid around a lot. I wholeheartedly believe that the tires on the car did not handle the conditions well, and that is why she lost control of the car. In fact, the Martha's Vineyard Hospital almost couldn't get clearance for the helicopter to Medivac her to Boston because of the weather.
As for the seatbelt - I am intimately familiar with Hope's car - I owned it, the '92 Acura Integra hatchback, for 10 years before I sold it to Hope a year ago. It has an automatic chest seatbelt and a manual lap belt. Car manufacturers stopped making seatbelts like this because people would forget to buckle the lap belt and would get seriously hurt in accidents. I warned Hope about this when she bought the car. Whether Hope was buckled in or not seems like a great deal of speculation. The Chilmark police chief was quoted saying, "She is also lucky that she wasn't ejected from the vehicle, because she wasn't wearing her seatbelt." How he knows this is beyond me.
Hope does not remember the accident at all - she has around 40 stitches in her head. Hope, in a state of shock, got out of the car and walked up to a house nearby to get help - the Chilmark police did not arrive at the scene until a while later. None of the officers saw her in the car with or without her seatbelt on. The car rolled, how many times I'm not sure. One or both of the seatbelts could have come undone at this point regardless of how many times she rolled if any loose objects were flying loose around inside the car and hit either buckle: the release buttons are big and on the edge of the buckles. Or she could have simply taken them off in order to get out of the car.
The article in The Times and the comments by the Chilmark police chief make Hope sound like some sort of crazy, irresponsible, speeding drunk. She is none of these things. She is a kind, responsible, intelligent, and mature young woman, and a long-time member of the Island community. The Chilmark police and The Times could and should have exercised more sympathy and concern for Hope's welfare, rather than using her as some sort of poster child for the Island anti-drunk-driving campaign. Neither Hope nor her friends or family condone drunk driving, but we consider ourselves fortunate that she is still with us and amazingly okay, and we strongly believe that the weather, not alcohol, caused her life-threatening accident.
Aimed at wind
To the Editor:
Passage of the Young amendment to restrict installation of wind turbines to beyond a mile and a half of shipping channels is unjustified and will sound the death knell for the timely development of offshore wind turbine projects. Contrary to what Cape Wind's opponents are saying, there is nothing sensible about Representative Young's amendment. In fact, it's excessive, unnecessary and proposed for only one reason: to defeat the vitally important Cape Wind project.
People should know that the Alaskan congressman's amendment is not even supported by the Coast Guard, and proposes a far greater distance between navigation channels and wind turbines than exists anywhere in the world. It's completely unfair to wind turbines when offshore gas and oil rigs are allowed as close as 500 feet to shipping channels. At a time when our country is trying to reduce its reliance on Middle East oil, this backroom maneuver by Cape Wind 's opponents is completely unacceptable, and runs contrary to recent pledges of congressional leaders to reform the legislative process.
As a 20-year ferryboat captain on Nantucket Sound, I can categorically say that the location of the proposed turbines, already well out of the shipping channels, will not be a hazard to navigation. With the turbines placed one-third to one-half mile apart and taking up only 200 square feet of water surface, mariners will be far more likely to run aground on shallow Horseshoe Shoal (the location of the project) than they will be to hit one of the turbines.
Captain Richard Elrick
To the Editor:
Your backyard could be a summeritme oasis to an inner-city child. Close to 5,000 New York City children visit volunteer host families in the Northeast for two weeks or longer each summer through the Fresh Air Fund's Friendly Town Program.
They can run their hands and toes through freshly cut grass, skip over a sprinkler, and watch the night sky fill with stars. As a host, you can help more children from low-income neighborboods in New York City experience the simple pleasures of Martha's Vineyard.
"This was a wonderful experience for the whole family. Shanelle felt comfortable with all of us very quickly, and likewise we felt the same. She was a total pleasure to host and a real breath of Fresh Air!" said a Fresh Air host.
Many families find their hosting experiences so rewarding that over 65 percent of all children are reinvited to stay with host families, year after year.
This year, the Fresh Air Fund needs more families to volunteer as hosts for the Friendly Town program. There are no financial requirements, and the host family can choose the age and gender of their visitor; all that is needed is time and love. First-time visitors rage in age from six to twelve and can be invited back through The Fund until age 18. Take the opportunity to learn more about the Fresh Air fund and hosting a child this summer.
Contact Cheryll Sashin at 508-693-0542 or call the Fund at 800-367-0003. You can also visit The Fund's Web site at www.freshair.org.
What is a poet laureate?
To the Editor:
If West Tisbury voters approve an article at the annual town meeting in April establishing a poet laureate, West Tisbury will be the first community in the Commonwealth to do so. In fact, despite its rich heritage of poets and writers, Massachusetts is one of only 11 states that have no state poet laureate.
Thirty-nine other states have that position. Worldwide poets laureate include those in England, Scotland, Wales, Canada, South Africa, and the United States. The United Nations has a poet laureate. So do U.S. cities such as Santa Barbara, Santa Fe, San Francisco, San Ramon, Duluth, Denver, and Carrboro, North Carolina. Carrboro's population, at 16,000, is roughly the same as the Vineyard's. Suffolk County, Long Island, has a poet laureate, as does Queens, New York. California gets credit for the first state poet laureate, named by governor's proclamation in April 1915. Colorado followed four years later. The position of United States Poet Laureate wasn't established until 1937, almost twenty years later.
A poet laureate is usually, but not always, appointed by the government. The position is honorary, commonly is unpaid, and often is for a period of less than five years. England's Poet Laureate originally was appointed for life, now the office is held for a ten-year term. The U.S. Poet Laureate serves less than one year, from October until the following May.
The title, poet laureate, dates back to the ancient Greeks, when poets and heroes were honored with crowns of laurel leaves. The word "laureate" survives in academia's baccalaureate degrees. As early as 1341, Francesco Petrarch, famous for the sonnets he wrote to the fair-haired, blue-eyed Laura, was called Poet Laureate. In England, the Poet Laureate was the official poet of the monarch, a position created in 1617 by Charles I for Ben Jonson. As such, Jonson was responsible for writing poems to celebrate birthdays and marriages, coronations, military victories, and a New Year's ode. The poet was attached to the royal household. Queen Victoria changed the position to recognize achievement, with no particular duties. The nineteen English poets laureate to date include John Dryden; William Wordsworth; Alfred, Lord Tennyson; and John Masefield.
The U.S. Poet Laureate position was originally unpaid. Because of a gift from Archer M. Huntingdon, a founder of the Central Pacific Railroad, our poet laureate now receives a stipend of $35,000. The stipends of poets laureate vary from nothing up to several thousand dollars. The stipends of early poets laureate traditionally included alcohol. In addition to a pension, Ben Jonson received an annual "terse of Canary wine." Dryden, "a butt of Canary wine."
The U.S. Poet Laureate is entrusted with raising the status of poetry in the everyday conscience of the American public, but has few official duties. The laureate gives one annual lecture and a poetry reading. Each is free to pursue an individual agenda. Joseph Brodsky introduced poetry into airports, supermarkets, and hotel rooms. Gwendolyn Brooks encouraged children in elementary schools to read and write poetry. Robert Haas organized a "Watershed" conference to unite writers and poets.
The duties, remuneration, and terms of poets laureate vary from state to state and community to community. New Hampshire's governor appoints the poet laureate to a five-year term with no compensation and no specific duties. Santa Fe's first poet laureate was appointed to a two-year term with a $5,000 annual stipend funded by private donors. The poet is supposed to make four annual appearances at city functions. The poet laureate of Cheshire County, England, has decided to put Cheshire on the map, using poetry to create an on-line map of the region.
Poets in general can be troublemakers. Poets laureate are no exception. California's poet laureate stepped down after it was discovered that he'd falsified his college degree. Amiri Baraka, the poet laureate of New York, resigned after writing an allegedly anti-Semitic poem.
The Lake Superior Writers Group of Duluth, Minnesota, has taken the initiative to make Duluth the first city in Minnesota to have a poet laureate. The group has made the position a tough one. The two-year appointment carries an honorarium of $2,000 a year. Aspirants must have authored at least one published volume of poetry of 48 pages or more and must be recognized by his or her peers in the literary community as having made significant contributions. The poet laureate is expected to: "raise public awareness through readings, appearances, workshops, and other public displays; arrange for poet-in-the-school appearances; write monthly poetry columns with reviews of books and poems; organize poetry workshops at local libraries; create poems for specific occasions; help organize an annual city-wide poetry event; select poems for display on local city buses, billboards, and postcards; and be available for a meal-a-month in local restaurant."
In Queens, New York, 28-year-old Ishi Yi Park beat out 75 other borough bards including Joseph (Rev. Run) Simmons, an internationally known rapper, who was disqualified because he lived in New Jersey. New Hampshire has decided to host "Poetry and Politics." At least two dozen state poets laureate have been invited. Why "Poetry and Politics"? Because, the press release says, "poets have always played a role in civic societies as the voices of both tradition and dissent, the source of new ideas, or the expression of thought not otherwise expressible."
The first poet laureate of Carrboro, North Carolina - the town with roughly the same population as the Vineyard - was recently named to a one-year term. "The only town in North Carolina (we think) ever to appoint a poet laureate," said the chair of the appointing committee.
Will West Tisbury be the first town in Massachusetts to officially honor our poets? We'll know after the April 11 town meeting.
To the Editor:
Last Saturday night I went to Island Entertainment to pick up yet another version of "Pride and Prejudice." When I got home I reached over to the passenger seat for my briefcase. No briefcase. Panic. My wallet, cell phone, checkbook. All those slips of paper with critical notes. I'm dead. Maybe I didn't take it with me. I searched the house three times. No briefcase. I returned to the stores I had visited. I called the Tisbury Police and reported the missing item. I dialed my cell phone imagining a busy signal and calls going out to Europe or Asia. I made a list of places to notify on Sunday morning - cards, banks, cell phone company. And then it would be off to Motor Vehicles on Monday.
Sunday morning I heard a car pull up. A knock on the door. A friendly Vineyarder clutching my briefcase. It was Joey Andrade doing a Vineyard thing. Being neighborly and going out his way to be helpful. Driving on State Road, Joey and his friend saw the briefcase lying next to the Kingdom Hall grounds. He stopped, picked it up, found my way-off-the-road, not-so-easy-to-find address and returned the briefcase to the disheartened owner who would have gladly come to his house.
Joey, your kindness is a big reason why I'm happy to be living on this special Island, particularly in our disquieting world.
So how did the errant case wind up a mile from home? Elementary. I must have put it on top of my car while I negotiated a snow bank to get in. It flew off soon after I turned onto State Road. Thanks again, Pal Joey. You saved me a lot of trouble and worry. In my book, you're right up there with the Ag Fair.
To the Editor:
March 18 is the third anniversary of the Iraq invasion - a dreadful mistake that we've not yet corrected. Rather than preserving life and increasing our security, it's resulted in bombings, unlawful arrests, kidnappings, torture, and the deaths of over 100,000 people. And here in the U.S., we find ourselves with drained healthcare, housing, and education budgets, and lost privacy and rights.
This war has lasted three years too many.
This Saturday, please join with me at Five Corners from 12 noon-1pm to publicly express your outrage, and demand that our troops and money be immediately "redeployed" home.