Saturday, April 24, 2010

Kay Ryan

The April 12 New Yorker features a story about Kay Ryan, poet laureate of the United States: "In her essay in Poetry, she describes listening to panelists talk about how teaching creative writing fuels their own creativity, and feeling the same kind of guilt a four-star chef might feel at a church picnic.'My sense of this that these are sincere, helpful, useful people who show their students their own gifts and help them to enjoy the riches of language while also trying to get some writing done themselves. They have to juggle these competing demands upon their souls and it is hard and honorable. I agree and shoot me now.'"

Checking Your Sources

I was on the copy desk of the Knoxville, Tennessee, News-Sentinel when the teletype machines began to spurt out the news of President Kennedy’s assassination. It was after the final edition deadline, and only two of us were on duty at the copy desk, editing news service stories for the next day, cutting, marking capitalization and paragraphs and writing headlines.

This was a long time ago, but I distinctly remember our quandary as to which news service to trust as we scrambled to get the story of the president’s assassination into print, shorthanded and dazed from the almost unbelievable news.

The first Associated Press transmission and the story from United Press International had very different information concerning the number of shots which had been fired, the grassy knoll, descriptions from witnesses. The phones were going like mad, and under pressure to get out an Extra and remake the newspaper’s front page, we had to choose which story to run. We went with the Associated Press because there was no way to check the sources and the AP story seemed more conservative, more believable.

We live in a time of unparalleled access to news, and yet it seems ever more difficult to find out what is going on. Almost every time I try to research something through the Internet, I run into conflicting information. In order to stay current, I read the San Francisco Chronicle, the New York Times and the Athens News; I watch the local news and BBC America on television. There is not as much overlap as you might think.

Which is not to say I shouldn’t have checked my sources on the Brautigan Library information. Writing a blog is a little like putting a message in bottle. I don’t really know who will read it. Besides this lack of feedback, I find that I’m a bit glib when using the computer to write. (I always write poetry in longhand.)

Dr. John Barber, who has left a longish comment on my blog of March 30, "The Library Lives", reminded me that even if I am putting a note in a bottle, I need to verify my sources.

A story by Kevin O’Kelly in The Boston Globe on Sept. 27, 2004, said “If Brautigan (Library) founder Todd Lockwood’s plans work out, the (contents of the Brautigan library) will move to the Presidio Branch of the San Francisco Public Library next year.”

In 2005, The Fletcher Free Library, where the Brautigan library was housed, wrote in its newsletter that the Brautigan collection was going home to San Francisco. Lockwood had, according to the Fletcher newsletter, “negotiated with the San Francisco Public Library to arrange a permanent home for the Brautigan Library at the Presidio Branch of the SFPL, the exact location where Brautigan placed his fictional 24-hour-a-day library”.

To my credit, I did e-mail the Presidio Library to see if the collection had made it, but when I got no response, I didn’t keep after it. The Brautigan Library, as Dr. Barber says in his comment, never made it from Vermont to San Francisco, and, mea culpa, I never followed up to see if the Fletcher Free Library newsletter or the Boston Globe had noted that fact.