Treatment of Afghan women needs attention

I have many issues with Megan Reif's May 3 opinion article "Beyond the veil - bigger issues." Hollywood and American women's rights groups have taken a bold and courageous stand against the Taliban - and their admirable efforts continue to help women in Afghanistan.

In 1997, women's rights groups - and thereafter Hollywood - forced the Taliban's obscene treatment of women into the American public limelight. We wouldn't even be having this public debate if these groups had not awakened the American people. And it is exactly because of the pressure exerted by women's rights groups and Hollywood, that the Taliban are now "willing" to allow girls to study at home.

Afghans deeply appreciate the efforts of these and other groups. Sure, they still have more to learn about the Afghan culture and history, but their efforts are morally correct, journalistically responsible, and invaluable to the Afghan women who are suffering under this monstrous regime.

Ansar Rahel San Francisco, Calif.

I was shocked by the opinion piece, "Beyond the veil - bigger issues," about how insignificant the issue of the veiling of Afghan women is. This is no small issue. Islamists - and that includes the Taliban - have gotten away with declaring anything they don't like as unIslamic, and they depend on the ignorance and illiteracy of their poor subjects not to challenge them. Nor, as the author mistakenly suggests, do rural women wear the burka. Peasant women cannot do field work in such a garment, nor have they ever. It is a garment of subjugation, plain and simple.

The burka is a perfect symbol of what is wrong with not only Afghanistan, but other strongholds of fanatics, such as the tribal areas of northern Pakistan. In these places, women are the private property of men, literacy is withheld from them even more than from men, and they have no voice in their own governance. Such societies deserve the attacks of not only women's groups, but of all thinking people in developed societies.

Laina Farhat-Holzman Aptos, Calif.

Defending modern poetry

Regarding Robert Oliphant's May 5 opinion piece "Seeking poetic memory": The author, who faults today's poets for their lack of rhyme and meter, simply hasn't been paying attention. The New Formalism is an established movement. He should read its anthology, "Rebel Angels" (1996), as well as similar recent formalist anthologies, "A Formal Feeling Comes" (1994) and "Strong Measures" (1986). Instead of Frost on netless tennis, he could have quoted

T. S. Eliot: "No verse is free for the poet who wants to write well."

As to memorizing, I know enough about Poet Laureate Robert Pinsky to put him up against anyone in a poetry-recitation contest. The richness of contemporary poetry does not deserve Mr. Oliphant's meanspiritedness.

Philip Dacey Lynd, Minn.

As a poet, I applaud Robert Oliphant's opinion piece. No one can recite so much as a stanza of modern poetry. After many years of poetic effort, I have abandoned the mainstream where people gauge their success on publishing credits and grant acceptances.

For me, the true test comes when I present my work to the public. If they fall quiet, or chuckle, or sigh in the right places, then I know I have succeeded. I know that something in my work has generated a memory, a thought, or a feeling in them.

It's time for poetry to make sense to everyday people. If it doesn't, it simply isn't poetry, no matter how many scholars claim it is.

Will Webster Kaslo, B.C.

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