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An open letter to the National Magazine Awards Foundation

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Issue: 13 Section: Arts Topics: poetry

January 13, 2004

An open letter to the National Magazine Awards Foundation

by Amanda Jernigan

I am writing to express my disappointment at your decision to eliminate the poetry category in the National Magazine Awards. It seems to me that in doing so you are not only turning your back on the literary magazines that form an important part of your constituency, you are turning your back on journalistic tradition.

Poetry has appeared in the pages of our magazines and newspapers for as long as magazines and newspapers have appeared on our doorsteps and dining room tables. Poetry isn't just the province of the little literaries. Harper's and The New Yorker publish poems; likewise, poems appear in Canada's most intelligent general-interest magazines: Brick, for instance, and Maisonneuve. These poems are not literary sideshows, but rather
they form a necessary counterpoint to the narrative approach of essays and reviews. They court the world's complexities, they mine the history of the language. The best of them find their way into our heads and hearts and become part of our vocabularies, enabling us to speak to one another in an idiom enriched by shared literary experience.

Magazine-publication of poetry is critical not just for readers, but for poets. It can take a decade to compile a book-length manuscript of poems. If individual verses are to have a public life, they need more immediate venues. Magazines provide those venues, furnishing poets with audience and response. Without that support, the poet works in a vacuum, if she works at all.

The poetry category in the National Magazine Awards does an important service to our culture by recognizing the publication of fine poetry in journals large and small. For the sake of readers and of writers, please reconsider your decision.

Most sincerely,

Amanda Jernigan

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The Dominion is a monthly paper published by an incipient network of independent journalists in Canada. It aims to provide accurate, critical coverage that is accountable to its readers and the subjects it tackles. Taking its name from Canada's official status as both a colony and a colonial force, the Dominion examines politics, culture and daily life with a view to understanding the exercise of power.

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