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Making the Bard of Brooklyn work for his byline

The Brooklyn Paper
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One of the rules here at The Brooklyn Paper (and there are many) is that poetry begets poetry. That means we don’t run poems out of fear that the second our readers lay their eyes on one, we’ll be hit with a tidal wave of new submissions (believe us, it has happened before).

Hardscrabble newspapermen and women like us pride ourselves on the kind of prose that grabs you by the throat and doesn’t let go. So it shouldn’t come as a surprise that had we received Walt Whitman’s latest poem in our inbox directly, rather than within a New York Daily News article outlining a Nebraska professor’s discovery of the long-lost piece, we might have edited it this way:

Walt,

Thanks for the submission. See my notes below. Remember, when I write in ALL CAPS it is not because I am angry. I am never angry. I do it to differentiate your copy from my notes. All I want to do is make you the best writer you can be. Take my advice, and you’ll go places, kid. By the way, all submissions become the property of The Brooklyn Paper. Here goes:

YOURS:

To Bryant, the Poet Of Nature

I WRITE THE HEADLINES HERE, KID. AND I DON’T PUT NAMES IN ’EM UNLESS THE NAME IS GEORGE CLOONEY!

EDITED: CUT

YOURS:

Let Glory diadem the mighty dead —

STOP RIGHT THERE. I DON’T KNOW HOW MANY TIMES I HAVE TO TELL YOU. YOU CAN’T LEAD WITH OPINION. AND DON’T GET ME STARTED ON $100 WORDS LIKE “DIADEM.” IF YOU WANT TO SAY “CROWN,” JUST SAY “CROWN.”

YOURS:

Let monuments of brass and marble rise

To those who have upon our being shed

A golden halo, borrowed from the skies,

And given to time its most enduring prize;

TOO MANY PARAGRAPH BREAKS! YOU’VE GOTTA BE ABLE TO STRING TWO SENTENCES TOGETHER IF YOU WANT TO PLAY THIS GAME, PAL. AND YOUR PUNCTUATION IS ATROCIOUS. WE’VE GOT INTERNS FRESH FROM LIBERAL ARTS COLLEGES THAT ONLY TEACH IN SANSKRIT WHO WRITE BETTER THAN THIS.

YOURS:

For they but little less than angels were:

But not to thee, oh! nature’s OWN, we should

(When from this clod the minstrel-soul aspires

And joins the glorious band of purer lyres)

I HAVE NO IDEA WHAT YOU ARE SAYING. WE HAVE A TABLOID SENSIBILITY. YOU NEED TO MAKE THE POINT CLEAR AS DAY. AND WATCH YOUR CAPITALIZATION AND PUNCTUATION! YOU’RE NOT PLAYING JAZZ HERE. THERE ARE RULES THAT MUST BE FOLLOWED.

YOURS:

Tall columns build: thy monument is here —

For ever fixed in its eternity —

A monument God-built! ’Tis seen around —

GREAT USE OF EM-DASHES! MOST YOUNG WRITERS DON’T KNOW WHAT THEY ARE! BUT GOING FORWARD, MAKE SURE YOU DON’T OVERUSE THEM. THREE IN A ROW IS PUSHING IT.

YOURS:

In mountains huge and many gliding streams—

Where’er the torrent lifts a melancholy sound,

Or modest flower in broad savannah gleams.

WE’VE BEEN HERE BEFORE. HOW MANY TIMES HAVE I TOLD YOU THAT WHEN YOU COVER A PREVIOUSLY REPORTED STORY, YOU HAVE TO ADD VALUE? WE’VE ALL HEARD THE “MANY A FLOWER IS BORN TO BLUSH UNSEEN” TALE A THOUSAND TIMES. FIND A NEW ANGLE!

BEFORE YOU GO ABOUT CLEANING IT UP, TALK TO A BOTANIST, AN ECOLOGIST, AND A HISTORIAN AND FIGURE OUT WHICH MOUNTAINS, TORRENTS, AND SAVANNAHS FIT THE BILL. AND DON’T WRITE A WORD TILL YOU GET BACK TO ME.

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