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Letters to the editor 

Best of Atlanta 2007, 'On the chopping block' and more

WHERE'S THE "POET" IN "POETS, ARTISTS & MADMEN"?

I am writing this letter to express a lack of surprise in the fact that in your "Best of Atlanta" issue (cover story, Sept. 27), you have titled a section "Poets, Artists & Madmen," yet have failed to even have a "Best Poet" category. The word "poet" has come to be defined simply as "one who writes poems," although it has also been defined, even in Dictionary.com as "a person who has the gift of poetic thought, imagination, and creation, together with eloquence of expression." In today's age, it seems that everyone fancies themselves a poet, including Blondie, the performance artist/stripper, who CL claims is a "poet" also. I think that CL, which is the paper that people turn to for legitimate information about the artistic happenings in this city, should at least recognize real poets, especially those who live, work, and write in this city. Natasha Trethewey, who won the Pulitzer Prize for her book Native Guard; Tom Lux, author of 19 books of poetry, who has been awarded numerous grants and awards for his work; David Bottoms, Poet Laureate of Georgia; Beth Gylys, Leon Stokesbury, Chelsea Rathburn, Mike Dockins, and many, many more talented, inspirational, acclaimed, and REAL poets live, work, and read in Atlanta. There are many poets (local, national and international) who read in Atlanta all of the time, yet CL does not cover these readings or even mention them most of the time in the "Arts Agenda." Spoken word is an important part of contemporary poetry, but even this is covered very minimally. This letter is meant to express my disappointment, but also to challenge CL to cover this important art form as well as it covers music, theater, and visual art, or, in the very least, to use the word "poet" more respectfully and honestly.

– Sara Bartlett, Atlanta

SMOKERS NEED PORTABLE ASHTRAY

I frankly thought the responses by the three smokers profiled on this question (Streetalk, "Wouldn't Atlanta be a lot cleaner if you didn't throw your cigarette butts everywhere?" Sept. 27) were disgusting. They have no consideration for others or their environment. They contribute to making Atlanta a very dirty city. Each year I pick up more than 2,000 butts and smokers keep throwing them down. When will they learn that cigarette butts are litter and don't degrade for many, many years? Why should we, the taxpayers, have to pay to clean up their butts? All these discourteous smokers need to do is carry a portable ashtray for their butts. They're cheap and easily available over the Internet and from many Keep America Beautiful affiliates.

– Richard Cohen, Decatur

AHA SEEKS SELF-SUFFICIENCY

Your report (cover story, "On the chopping block," Sept. 20) on the Atlanta Housing Authority mischaracterized the role of the organization. It is neither social services nor economic development. It is instead about helping people become self-sufficient, with access to affordable housing serving as the vehicle for economic advancement. That requires an optimal combination of services, development and access, with the ultimate goal of upgrading the lives of the people in parallel with the infrastructure.

The premise underlying much of the report is that public housing residents are condemned to eternal dependency, and thus, forever entitled to remain in their existing state of government dependency. Such low expectations are both self-fulfilling and insulting. Having worked with the people of the AHA, I know that their vision for developing vibrant, secure and economically stable communities is simply an extension of their desire to see their residents become vibrant, secure and economically stable people. Their achievements over the last decade are nothing less than astounding, and they deserve credit for helping many hundreds of people find a way out of poverty.

– Kevin Donovan, Decatur, former contractor who worked for the AHA

CHILDREN OF PUBLIC HOUSING

First, thank you sincerely for your very insightful and necessary article on the future of public housing in Atlanta (cover story, "On the chopping block," Sept. 20). I myself am a paraprofessional (teacher's assistant) at A.D. Williams Elementary School, located in the heart of Bowen Homes. Over the past two years, I have had the opportunity to gain new insight into the lives of some of the project's residents. I am most times dismayed by the realization that at 6 years old, some of the children in the community have experienced things that I never did in 19 years as a resident of what is considered at best a lower-middle class neighborhood in Jamaica, N.Y.

As plans are being made to raze Bowen Homes, I wonder less about the future of some of the more promising students, and more about the ones that are being written off as you read this. What do I do to hopefully affect change, you might ask? I pray. I try to plant seeds that will grow in the children I interact with in the hope that they will sprout and grow, useful bits of knowledge and direction that may serve them in the future (you have no idea how much a successful conflict resolution program will help these kids). Then I pray again.

– Louis Lord Jr., Douglasville

PUBLIC HOUSING NEEDS WILL CONTINUE

You did a good job (cover story, "On the chopping block," Sept. 20) of being, God help me, fair and balanced.

The hope represented by the evolution of the raze-rehab-voucher approach is dramatic and stands in stark contrast against the stultified policies of the temporary housing era. The intent of the nation's public housing was to offer – not guarantee and require – shelter from the rough economy under which we work. Techwood was celebrated as the nation's oldest public housing before its demolition prior to the Olympics, and families came forward to speak of how useful the project had been in turning their lives around.

At the same ceremonies recognizing the value of Techwood were families who had taken up permanent residence in the property set aside for temporary help. The fact that we have any success to point to after such housing became an institutionalized ghetto/concentration camps is amazing. We should be especially grateful given the charitable ambition gone awry that the projects represent.

And the current approach must be constantly monitored, massaged and redirected based upon what we learn; we must never again believe that we have answered all future questions of housing by making a heartfelt thrust on behalf of the weak. Times and the needs of families will continue to evolve, and so must humanitarian policy.

– Wade Benson, Atlanta

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