Dear Dispatches:

Just wanted to let you know that I’ve enjoyed your email dispatches. Having worked for about 7 or 8 years in the past with the PEN Freedom to Write Committee, I agree with you on the need to respect the free-speech rights of even far-right extremists like Ann Coulter—although it’s been amusing these last few days to see conservative pundits who have been pushing for Ann Coulter’s free-speech rights now calling for Stephen Colbert to be fired….

And, as a longtime poet and political organizer, I’ve been enjoying your Dispatches emails giving new life and energy to issues connecting poetry and politics, including the question of those you call “post-avant” poets (is that what they call themselves?) taking money from a conservative U.S. group to travel to China.

And I also enjoyed your linking to a long article about Willie Alexander, which I hadn’t seen.  When I was about 19, I saw a small show at Rutgers that featured Willie Alexander and the Boom Band (who I remember had a song about Kerouac) and Elvis Costello.  At the time, it was difficult to know which, if either, would become more widely known, and I hadn’t heard anything more about Willie Alexander until now. I forwarded the link to that article to my friend, Danny Shot, with whom I started the now-defunct Long Shot literary journal years ago, because Danny was a real Willie Alexander fan at the time.

Also wanted to say that I very much appreciated your and Kent’s intro to the new anthology, including the relationship of poetry and politics being somewhere in between Shelley’s vision of poets as world legislators and Auden’s comment that poetry makes nothing happen. Also enjoyed the book’s dedications, including Amiri Baraka, who was a longtime NJ poet-activist friend, and Muriel Rukeyser, whose “Book of the Dead” was one of the long-poem influences for my own long poem, “Liberation Recalled,” in which I tried to explore historical and intergenerational legacies of my late mother’s experiences as a Holocaust survivor. I also enjoyed seeing you quote Ed Sanders in your poem in the book. As a young Jersey poet, I studied with Allen Ginsberg at Naropa, and Allen also became a longtime friend—after Allen’s death, I worked with Ed and with Allen’s assistants, Bob Rosenthal and Peter Hale, to organize a big  tribute to Allen’s poetry and activism at St. John the Divine Cathedral in NYC. I’m still working through the new anthology, so don’t want to mention favorite poems yet, but I also enjoyed the way you ended the collection with Walt Whitman.

Eliot Katz