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Of poetry and prison

I have just returned from my weekly trip to Walsenburg where I teach the creative writing workshop featured in Noel Black's cover story two weeks ago, "Verse Case Scenarios."

When I handed out copies of that issue, the men snatched them up and spread them open. I watched their faces as they read the article about themselves and me, and I saw lights popping on -- as though the article identified for them the value of what they were doing. That hearing from the "outside" world about their journey into writing was real validation, and certainly motivated them.

When the writing exercise started, about "places" that define our lives, the men buckled down and wrote with more fervor than I'd ever seen before.

And when the time came to stand up and read their first drafts (usually only a few volunteer to read), there were so many volunteers to read that we ran out of presentation time.

Also, they wrote with much deeper personal voices -- one man wrote a beautiful elegy about going back to the family farm to spread his grandmother's ashes over the same ground where he had spread his grandfather's, a year before; another wrote about the place in the heart where love is found; another of the "places" of fear when faced with arrest.

Furthermore, the depth of Noel's article, on four poets, with literary history and other quotes, gave them an up-to-date perspective of the variety of "voices" in the poet's world.

Upon leaving, I asked, "How did it feel to see your name and words in print?" Their faces lit up like smiling kids at a birthday party. And they said, "Be sure to tell Noel thank you."

And I thank Noel and the Indy for writing and printing the article, for I am a firsthand witness that Noel's words have given a few men the insight that "words" can truly be their ticket to personal freedom, a life without crime, and nurturing rejuvenation.

-- Jim Ciletti

Colorado Springs

Come on over

I enjoyed John Hazlehurst "Circus" column in last week's paper, describing the county Republican Assembly.

You've got real courage, no doubt about it.

But, John, what are you doing with the Republicans?

You should know better by now. That old version of the GOP for which you are nostalgic disappeared a long time ago.

And I don't think it's coming back. The radical right wing killed that once friendlier Republican Party. Back when you joined, Lincoln's party had a human face. Not anymore. It's hard to recognize it now.

So, come over to the other side. It's really much nicer over here. We may not have the power, but we have the principles, and the right, on our side.

Just do it, John! Just out yourself. Be who you really are. Come on over and be a Democrat!

And put it all, the whole conversion story, in next week's paper.

You won't regret it.

-- Joe Barrera

Colorado Springs

Drug abuse alive and well

Drug abuse is alive and well in this community. Sadly, many heroin addicts continue to use this deadly, illegal drug simply because judges, probation officers and treatment providers are not aware of the proven success rate of Medication Assisted Treatment.

We are grateful to the Independent for the attention you have given this matter ["Wanted: addicts," May 6] We pledge to continue to do our part to provide this life-saving treatment to those in need at the lowest possible price.

-- Michael K. Gardner, BA LCDC

Clinic Director

Western Clinical Health

Services of Colorado

Artsy but unrealistic

In a letter to the editor last week, Richard Van Scotter asserts that the employees of The Chinook Bookshop should have risen up, wrestled control from the arrogant Dick and Judy Noyes, bucked the juggernaut of corporate and Internet bookselling, and in true Judy Garland, Mickey Rooney, "hey kids, let's put on our own show!" fashion, saved the store.

This reminds me of the day when, as programming director of a classical music radio station in San Francisco, I received a call from a disgruntled listener, informing me that he was going to start his own station so he could play only music written before the year 1200.

Artsy but unrealistic.

While I'm at it, I'd like to take this opportunity to launch a pre-emptive response to the chain bookstore bashing that will no doubt reach a crescendo as Chinook's final day approaches.

As a seven-year employee of the now deceased McKinzey-White Bookshop, I certainly participated in my share of corporate lambasting. I now work at one of those evil chains, and while I miss many aspects of an independent, I'm still afforded the daily opportunity to uphold the First Amendment, and to sell, order and recommend books of all sizes, shapes and political views, surrounded and supported by a core group of highly educated and knowledgeable colleagues.

So please, while we lament the loss of the treasure known as The Chinook Bookshop, let's skip the simplistic stereotype of the "knuckle dragging, gum chewing, baseball hat on backwards, wouldn't know the difference between Thomas Wolfe and Tom Clancy" corporate bookstore clerk in the coming weeks, thank you very much.

-- Mark R. Jackson

Colorado Springs

God's all done

Editor's note: The following was submitted by Colorado Springs resident Jonathan H. Reilly in response to last week's report of the shenanigan's that occurred during the May 1 Republican County Assembly, during which County Commissioner candidate Douglas Bruce declared, "God is not finished with me yet."

A letter to Douglas Bruce

Dear Doug,

I'm finished with you now.

Sincerely,

God

Don't tear down history

I don't really know who to send this to, or what you can do to help, but here goes ...

I just received a notice from the City of Colorado Springs Planning and Community Development. It was to inform me about the following:

"A pre-application to replace an existing medical clinic building and three single-family residences with a new single-story, larger medical clinic building on the same lot and the three adjacent lots. The commercial zoned site is located northeast of Colorado Avenue and 14th Street. The property is addressed as 1330 W. Colorado Ave."

They will be considering public comments regarding this proposal until May 17, 2004. You can direct comments to Larry Larsen at the City Planning office: llarsen@springsgov.com or 385-5090.

I have no objections to updating the existing building for the medical clinic. However, I am vehemently opposed to doing it at the expense of the three single-family dwellings.

We need to preserve what is left of our historical architecture. It is precisely this history that gives Old Colorado City its unique appeal. If we keep destroying these old houses, we are in turn destroying Old Colorado City. Once this history is lost, we can never get it back.

There are plenty of nonhistoric areas in the Springs that would be far more appropriate for such a project. I have given this notice to several of my friends, posted it on the KOAA community bulletin board, e-mailed a letter of opposition to Mr. Larsen, e-mailed the president of the Organization of Westside Neighbors and e-mailed the OCC historical society. I was hoping that you would be able to help get the word out. Maybe if enough residents contact Mr. Larsen, we will be able to preserve our historical structures.

-- Allison Buckley

Colorado Springs

Wait for the facts

President Bush has already announced that, despite the horrific torture of Iraqi prisoners in American-run prisons, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld will stay in his administration.

It may be that Rumsfeld did nothing wrong, but how does the president know when all the facts are not yet known?

At a minimum, President Bush should hold off on promising to keep Rumsfeld until he knows he is not responsible for the torture of Iraqis.

-- Terza Ekholm

Colorado Springs

Rumsfeld should resign

Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld testified to Congress on May 7 that he "takes full responsibility for the events that occurred on his watch" with the foreboding warning that, "apparently the worst is yet to come." How did this happen?

The abuses at the Abu Ghraib prison and other facilities in Iraq and Afghanistan can be traced to policy decisions and public statements made by Rumsfeld himself. His lawless regime began in January 2002 when he publicly declared that hundreds of people detained by U.S. and allied forces in Afghanistan "do not have any rights" under the Geneva conventions.

According to the Taguba report, the detention system Rumsfeld oversees is grossly distorted. Abuses could have been prevented if he had responded to earlier reports of violations. Instead, he publicly dismissed or minimized such accounts delivering the message that the United States isn't bound by international law.

Rumsfeld has said he "would resign in a minute" if he thought he couldn't be effective. With all the lies, broken promises and strategic blunders he has committed, I would say that he is ineffective. He should resign immediately so that we can try and make amends with the Muslim community and world opinion and provide our servicemen and -women the leadership they deserve.

-- Gary Dean

Colorado Springs

Double standard

Lets see if I have this correct. Kerry is asking Rumsfield to resign because he knew about atrocities in Iraq. Kerry admitted that he committed atrocities in Vietnam. Does that mean that he is going to resign from the presidential race?

-- Gordon Strike

Colorado Springs

Kiss his career goodbye

I heard on the TV news that some junior officer with a conscience went to his superiors and blew the whistle on the treatment of Iraqi prisoners. I hope this unpatriotic, malcontent, non-team player isn't fragged too soon after his name gets around. As local chairman, I'd like to send him a membership application to the league of disenfranchised and marginalized pariahs. No good deed goes unpunished and he can pretty much kiss his career goodbye.

-- Nick Schroeder

Colorado Springs

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