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Jeredith Merrin completely trashes our national poet laureate in the latest issue of Southern Review. In his bright, well-documented essay, "Art Over Easy," Merrin concludes by comparing Billy Collins to that middle-of-the-roader, Garrison Keillor, renaming Mr. Collins "Our Laureate of Easiness."

Hey, Jeredith, where is the love, brother? Don't you know? Haven't you heard? This is National Poetry Month! It's your turn at the podium, your turn on the bestseller lists (but get off quick 'cause we got Grisham, Clancy and Mary Higgins Clark on the horizon and they don't do verse).

National Poetry Month is a curious animal. Most poets want a lot more than 30 days a year to strut their stuff. Especially in North Carolina, especially in the Triangle we have folks who'll deliver the goods eight days a week, year round. And best of all we have print media support to keep fresh works of rhyme reaching the masses.

Many local newspapers and magazines now regularly publish verse each issue. Every high school and college campus publishes poetry laden lit mags. Spring's Greensboro Review just hit the shelves. As did Voices 2002, the journal of the Duke University Women's Center. The tender longing of Deborah Pope's poem, "As the Children's Carpool Departs" stands out in a powerful collection of works by local campus women.

Writer's Digest chose locally founded Oyster Boy Review as the best poetry market e-zine for 2001. The North Carolina Writers Network, the largest state membership society of writers in the country, regularly publishes four valuable pages of contests and publication tips for poets in their magazine, Writers' Network News.

What I loved about Jeredith Merrin's rag on our Billy C. was simply the fact that it happened in print, in a literary periodical. Magazines perform that function of allowing a dialogue--more lasting and a bit more formal than e-mail or a "feed the beast" newspaper--where copy is often sought as decoration for the advertisements. The white space around a poem in The New Yorker highlights that poem's specialness. It's almost a political statement by the editors to choose verse and display it elegantly.

We are now used to seeing poetry in magazines. Reading reviews of poetry might be a stretch, but reading Merrin's rant was liberating enough to make me look forward to his next assault.

April celebrates the premiere issues of two (more!) local magazines.

The editors of Speak, an oral history magazine for western North Carolina, just moved to the Triangle having birthed their first issue in Hickory. Burgin Mathews, Colleen Cook and Doug Kelley believe "everybody has a story to tell, a story worth telling, a story worth the hearing." Seven life histories, text and photographs highlight the first issue.

The black and red ink on some issues of News From Below is still wet, it's that new. In his "Editor Entry," Kevin Kresse states their bold and perhaps not too uphill vision for a print start-up in a Web-site world, "We must actively seek to create media publications that are worthy of a democratic people."Like poetry, that's a year-round effort.

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