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Times Poetry Prize, 1987

December 20, 1987

Although critics will accuse Jack Miles of beating a dead Pegasus, I was glad to read the lucid, if somewhat grudging defense of poetry in his article "Nobody Needs Poetry." I'd disagree, however, with his notion that poetry is "losing out" to fiction, and that "fiction is stronger than poetry." It's like comparing tons of dynamite and a little radioactive material: Both can make a nice-size bang in the hands of an expert. Many novelists I know consider poetry as important as anatomy lessons for a medical student and routinely read it for spiritual sustenance and high delight in the power of language.

What Miles modestly does not mention in his article is the central role that the Los Angeles Times has given to the art form of poetry in its annual Book Prizes. Words do fail to describe the generosity with which he and The Times greeted the award recipients, and speaking for this year's winner in poetry, William Meredith, I can only thank you profoundly for what you do do for poetry. As Meredith says in his description of the reservoir of human kindness,

The fluid it holds is sweet to us, we've caught it over and over the way the thirsty ocean

catches the rain. This is the tribe's own drink. RICHARD HARTEIS

Bethesda, Md.

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