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Poets Sing the Praises of One Another

August 19, 2004

The Times, in its beautifully written obituary of award-winning poet Donald Justice (Aug. 16), calls us poets a "jealous and competitive lot." Painters, actors, dancers, screenwriters are every bit as jealous and competitive, and I'm sure there are a few corporate managers, salesclerks and CEOs who are jealous and competitive. If there is a fault, it is in ourselves, to quote another poet.

But I'm here to make the opposite point: I can't begin to count the number of times I've listened to poets recite the verse of another poet, singing the words as comfort against the nonchalant world. Get a dozen poets together and, as often as not, they're quoting from memory their favorite poems, written by other poets, words they've committed to memory, not to show off but because it's as important to their souls as to recite the rosary. We recite each other's work so we don't forget, so no one will forget.

We are like Homer's bards. We sing each other. We sing the song of the tribe. I'm a poet. And I'm not jealous of any poet's glory. I sing it.

Jack Grapes

Los Angeles

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