Poetry Magazine
Their New-Found
Who Were You
Before You Were?

Ms Helen Lothrom Klaviter
Business and Projects Manager
Poetry Magazine
60 West Walton Street
Chicago, Illinois 60610

Dear Ms. Klaviter:

I understand that Poetry magazine has just been awarded $100,000,000 to better American poetry.

We here at RALPH are delighted at your windfall, and wish you the best of luck as you disperse this largess in a fashion that will not force the poetasters of America into acts of terrorism. We would like to help.

In our ninety issues over the last eight years, we have published almost 500 new and distinctive poems --- plus dozens of reviews of books of poetry coming out of New York, and the university and small presses. However, over the past two years, our offices have become disheveled, our staff sullen, and our hopes are turning wan and troubled.

Our poetry editor has informed us that to work at RALPH may be a tonic to his heart but that it is toxic to his personal life. He cannot continue to support wife, three noisy children, and two noisy mortgage payments on $500 a week.

We've been told that the drop in funding for our non-profit foundation is due to an acute sickness in the Dow Jones Industrial Average.

As you may know, the DJIA has been moving south over many months. Our benefactors who are dependent on its perambulations have apparently gone south, too. Since they don't return our telephone calls anymore, we must presume that they have forgotten that the business of recasting American letters requires a bit of cash flow.

Therefore, we would like to apply to you for a one-time grant of .0001% of that which Ruth Lilly of Eli Lilly Co. donated to your organization.

We promise to be astute and parsimonious with your monies. We will continue to use our woodburning 19th Century computers and the telephones that you actually have to dial. We will not squander your assets on fancy offices with fancy paintings and fancy expresso machines. And the only saunas we'll be offering our staff will be the same old un-air-conditioned offices at Broadway and Third, around the corner from Pacers Theatre ("Just a Kiss Away").

As we have in the past, we promise to continue to answer all submissions by hand, even to those people who send us verse that indicates that they can't tell the difference between an iamb and a hexamb. For it is our understanding that many years ago Ms. Lilly sent Poetry Magazine a poem that you rejected. We would like to be in a similar position of honor so we can look forward to a similar grant from an aggrieved contributor in the distant future.

Too, we will continue to publish poetry that we think of as enlightened and rewarding, and serve as a voice of reason in our book reviews --- despite tart letters from poets and publishers accusing us of being curmudgeons, misanthropes, poetic imbeciles, fools, or worse.

--- Yours in high hopes,
Lolita Lark
Editor, RALPH

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Dear Lolita:

I just happened across your web page, while surfing certain artists represented on my own webpages


and was delighted to discover RALPH. What a delightful, irreverent magazine!

I enjoyed scrolling around in some of your back issues and intend to visit it regularly. I think your layouts are much more interesting than mine and much more like a literary magazine, like I used to read back in college. And that is all to the good.

We share interests in so many writers and artists, including that best of them all, Morris Graves. I live near LaConner, Washington, and Seattle, and was an English major back in the Fifties. I was also a grad student in the English Department at Berkeley. You seem to have NW ties, as I do California ones (aside from Fort Ord).

I see we share a liking for Eugene Smith. Do you know the work of his friend, Bill Pierce? Maybe you will like my Lake Ketchum black and white photo galleries. They were strongly influenced by that pair and by Robert Frank (before he met Mick Jagger).

You doing anything with haiku and tanka?

Best wishes, and I will send you update email notices to my publications, unless you tell me not to. I'll bet we know a lot of people in common.

--- Bob Arnold


Is "Lolita Lark" a pseudonym? The alliteration sounds better than most given names; it's more like a loving stage name.

I never considered who I was before I was Joel Friedland. I don't believe in past lives; I spend so much time living in my own past that if I had multiple past lives, as some people claim (or just imagine), I wouldn't move forward at all, and as it is, most of the time, I seem to be in a full scale retreat from living life as a mature, responsible adult.

What a joy to play on the internet writing to a literary journal at the top of the day -- when I should be working or looking for work, since I am currently unemployed.

In point of fact, when I think of RALPH, I think of my brother Ralph who lives in Sarasota. When I think of acronyms associated with the name RALPH, I had always thought of "the Honeymooners;" now I'll think of your online literary journal.

--- Joel Friedland

Dear Joel:

Thank you for your response.

I suspect that when they ask you who you were before you were Joel, they are not talking about reincarnation, nor past lives.

They are rather, as they often say so beguilingly, suggesting that we think of the face we had before we had a face.

--- L. Lark

Go to the original letter that inspired this letter.

Go to the origin of the name Lolita Lark