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Tech reviewer misunderstood poetry

I suppose everyone is entitled to his or her own opinion, no matter how wrong it may be, but I'm not so sure that this means that any dilettante should shout his profound ignorance as the voice of MIT in The Tech.

Last Thursday, MIT was highly privileged to host a truly great and much distinguished poet, Sharon Olds, for a reading. The next day, Nicholas L. Kelman '94 disgraced MIT with his obtuse review of her reading ["Sharon Olds at Media Lab -- love her or hate her," Oct 19].

Engineers and scientists have been long stereotyped as lacking understanding in the arts and humanities. Kelman's review only fosters this stereotype, and does another great disservice to MIT by making it less likely that a poet of Olds' caliber will ever read at MIT again. After all, why should a distinguished poet read where quality poetry is apparently not appreciated?

Kelman's taste is clearly bad, but he seems not even to have been paying much attention to the reading. He says her poems dealt "almost entirely with bad sexual experience," while, in reality, she read several joyous poems, several pained poems, and the rest dealt simultaneously with both the joy and pain of life.

Kelman's assertion that Olds "obviously feels that to be open and in love is in some way weak" could only be obvious to someone who was not listening and who has no clue. It seems almost as if Kelman was too busy count-

ing how many times the word "penis" was said, to pay attention to anything else.

Kelman is also on crumbling philosophical ground. He writes such inanities as, "Life is tough, but you're always better off than someone else, and it's a shame that poets like Olds do not seem to realize this." Does Kelman expect anyone to believe that only the most suffering person in the world should write about pain?

Olds writes about the entire spectrum of emotions. Yes, she writes about pain, but she also writes about happiness. These are the two poles about which human life revolves, and any writer who ignores either one of them is ignoring half of what makes us human. And, yes, "love really does exist," but apparently

Kelman has never experienced it, or he would know that there is no love without pain.

Contrary to Kelman's assertions, there is nothing suicidal in Olds' poetry. It is life affirming, acknowledging all the feelings that are necessary for life, both love and hate, pleasure and pain.

In addition to Kelman's shortcomings as a critical analyst of art, it seems he can't even get simple facts straight. Olds read nothing from Satan Says as Kelman states in his review. Five minutes with a copy of the book could have made his article more accurate, but Kelman has proven himself not just a lazy listener, but a lazy reporter as well.

Douglas Alan '88->

Systems Programmer->

MIT Media Lab->