Modern PoetryI join the perhaps hundreds who will respond...

LETTERS TO THE EDITOR

August 17, 1992

Modern Poetry

I join the perhaps hundreds who will respond in writing to Julia Grimes' letter to The Sun (July 30) entitled "Gross Poem," castigating a work by newly-named laureate Mona Van Duyn.

As the director of Maryland's oldest continuously publishing small press, I receive about 1,100 book-length poetry manuscripts per year.

I get manuscripts from 70-year-old avant-gardists. I get manuscripts from 17-year-old arch-conservatives.

Usually the cover letters indicate that the sender believes he or she speaks the language of "real poetry." Thus, I understand that taste -- which is, to some extent, a recognition factor -- creates passionate loyalties.

I would like to leave aside the substantive issues raised by Ms. Grimes' attack on Mona Van Duyn's poem.

Surely dozens of readers besides myself will, by now, have mailed off their observations that the poets Ms. Grimes uses as examples of "unspoiled art," Matthew Arnold and Rupert Brooke, regarded the worlds they inhabited as deeply flawed, if not already downright "spoiled." Often the brilliance of their writing rose, like phosphorescence off a stagnant pond, from the reflection of such spoilage.

I would simply like to recommend that Ms. Grimes, clearly a person who cares about both poetry and the world of the poet, continue to read poems by Mona Van Duyn -- as well as poems by many other mid-to-late 20th century poets.

I feel certain that the discomfiture which this poetry arouses will soon be something Ms. Grimes comes to recognize as the true "fit" of today's world.

Clarinda Harriss Raymond

Baltimore

Equal Treatment

The July 29 editorial in The Sun condemning the insurance commissioner's recent ruling under the Maryland Equal Rights Amendment reads like a page out of the insurance industry's brief.

Use of sex as a factor in determining insurance rates is discrimination, pure and simple.

The arguments for sex discrimination advanced by the insurance industry and adopted wholesale in your editorial are identical to those used in the past to validate rates based on race or religion and are equally unconstitutional.

Statistical differences between racial and religious groups still exist, especially in the areas of health and longevity. But few would argue that differential rates based on race or religion are good public policy.

The insurance industry no longer condones use of race and religion in rate setting because it is not consistent with our society's goal of treating people as individuals rather than as members of a generalized class.

And like the statistical differences between races and religious groups, scientific evidence suggests that health and longevity differences between the sexes are more closely related to social factors than to biology.

In short, actuarial science is an art form, not the absolute science the industry claims. If the industry chose to do so, it could eliminate sex as a factor in rate making without harming consumers.

It has already done so in Montana, and the overall results have been very positive, particularly because so many women in part-time, marginal employment must rely on private insurers for health insurance.

Finally, the condescending tone of your editorial is perhaps even more disturbing than its substance. Contrary to your suggestion that women's groups don't understand the implications of this decision, after decades of work to end sex discrimination in all areas of life, we know full well the difference between a pedestal and a cage.

Helen Neuborne

New York

The writer is the executive director of NOW Legal Defense and Education Fund.

Governor's 'Gag Order' Misunderstood

The Sun published a piece (July 23) by me regarding Gov. William Donald Schaefer's "gag order."

I compared the governor to the chief executive officer of a large company keeping track of happenings at all levels of the organization. I used that comparison as an analogy and am fully aware there are major differences in the conduct of a private company and state government regarding communications with

the public.

What I failed to make clear was that I did not support the governor's purported policy. The Governor's Drug and Alcohol Abuse Commission found it extremely difficult to conduct business because of it. I visited with the governor and told him the "gag order" was hampering the commission's work. Governor Schaefer assured me that he had not implemented a "gag order" and I should not be experiencing any difficulties communicating with the public.

I asked him how did this mix-up occur? I also asked him how it was that personnel throughout the entire state system claimed they could not talk with the media because of the "gag order" that he said he never ordered?

Governor Schaefer said it started with a conversation he had with his press secretary. He said he was not aware of a lot that was taking place in state offices. The governor requested that a better system be developed so that he could be informed on what was being said by whom and to whom.

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