Letter from Poetry Magazine

Letter to the Editor

By Kathy Fitzgerald

Dear Editor,

What’s with the ampersand brouhaha in the December issue [“Letters to the Editor”]? Daryl Hine and Amy Beeder pepper their back-to-back poems with the squiggly yet elegant things. Don Jones gets blasted by a defensive-sounding Kevin Young for asking an innocuous question about them.

Personally, I agree with Jones that ampersands are distracting. I find myself counting them—thirteen in Hine’s six stanzas, nine in Beeder’s two-pager. Ampersands make “and” a star performer instead of the quiet, serviceable connector it is meant to be. Young’s strident yet obscure raving about ampersands “mak[ing] the word ‘and’ mean something again” recalled Bill Clinton’s self-serving remark about what the meaning of “is” is.
If the point of your poetry is to call attention to the writer instead of the words, keep those ampersands and Dickinsonian dashes coming. But aside from counting the offending diacriticals, I won’t be reading you for any meaning at all, not even your portentous &s.

Originally Published: March 1st, 2010
Appeared in Poetry Magazine This Appears In