I'm confused. Is Dana Gioia the head of the NEA or Undersecretary of Defense for the Arts? [See "Poetry and the Pentagon: Unholy Alliance?" October, 2004] Since he took the helm, there have been two major initiatives there, and both have involved art for the military. The first is a program to produce Shakespeare plays in small communities, which includes a million-dollar program to bring Shakespeare to military bases. And now we have writing workshops for soldiers returning from Iraq. This marriage of art and military is a terrifying indication of where things are going in this country. If the point of the program is psychotherapy, the Defense Department is the most over-funded institution on the planet, so let them run it. If the point is art, why is it that the only NEA-sponsored training program for artists is devoted to soldiers?
If the NEA wants to get into the business of developing writers among under-represented population groups, why not start with poor kids who are facing no better future than to join the military and kill other poor kids in distant lands? How about Native Americans, remnants of America's local genocide? Or how about the Iraqis who have seen their families blown away by America's writer-to-be warriors?
East Calais, Vermont