Reporters on the Job

Lost in Translation: Correspondent Annia Ciezadlo met all kinds of poets for today's story about Iraqi poetry (page 1), and learned a lot about the subject.

"One poet told me, with a flourish, that he wrote erratic poetry. He seemed very proud of this, raising his eyebrows and then leaning back and folding his arms, pausing for a moment for me to be suitably impressed.

"I was confused. 'Erratic poetry?' I said, to be sure I'd heard him right.

" 'Yes, erratic,' he said nodding and flaring his eyebrows again, somewhat triumphantly.

Annia says the guy was really into French literary theory, always talking about deconstruction or textual interpretation, so she figured it must be some fancy kind of theoretical poetry - about the inherently flawed nature of language and human communication, no doubt.

"Is that French?" she asked cautiously, not wanting to be exposed as an academic ignoramus.

"Well, not really," he said impatiently. "Of course they do write erratic poetry. But mine is better."

"You know," he said with pride, "not many Iraqi poets can write erratic poetry. I am one of the few. And I am the best."

"You've probably already figured it out," says Annia, "but it wasn't until several minutes later that it dawned on me: erratic poetry was simply his erratic way of pronouncing erotic poetry, which to most Iraqi poets simply means love poems."

Reporting Break: Staff writer Scott Peterson was trying to illustrate the new shift in Russia's AIDS epidemic to a more mainstream population (page 7). It wasn't looking promising. Scott was warned again and again that Russians won't talk about their status with HIV. "I was about to wrap it up when a nurse introduced me to Irina - a mother-to-be diagnosed as HIV-positive," says Scott. "She wanted to be forthright about her case ... as long as I didn't reveal her full name and alert her parents."

David Clark Scott
World editor

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