At a poets’ conference in New Hampshire last spring, the chairman of The National Endowment for the Arts found himself discussing an event that couldn’t have seemed farther away: The U.S.-led invasion of Iraq. “I was talking to my old friend (poet) Marilyn Nelson,” Dana Gioia said. “...We were talking about how separate the worlds of literature and the enlisted man and woman were.” Gioia decided to change that.
- From the Associated Press

Dear Colleagues and Friends of the Arts,

We would really like the evening mixer with the returning troops to go well. That said, I offer here a guide of sorts to obtain maximum enjoyment from your interactions with the soldiers and, at the same time, prevent any needless friction should disagreements arise...

• While our community certainly marvels at the strength and endurance of those longhand writers among us, please spare the soldiers your tales of blisters and cramping.

• Over lunch with Marilyn last week, I offhandedly referred to the Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference as a “boot camp.” I certainly wouldn’t use the same choice of words when speaking to a soldier who has been through the rigors of basic training. Yes, Bread Loaf is pretty intense, but I think you all get the message.

• While I know you all have one, I’ve yet to hear a really good John McCain impression. Please run yours by me before embarrassing yourself in front of the troops.

• A returning airman from the 376th Air Expeditionary Wing has been writing love letters to Joyce Carol Oates from his post in Kyrgyzstan. We’ve set up a surprise spotlight dance. No teasing.

• Ceding to the request of a group from Fort Bliss, Texas, we’ve invited the Bush twins for a meet & greet. Please treat them with the respect you would accord your own children. But go ahead and drink with them. It is a party.

• Politely accept all battlefield experience manuscripts. While the follow-up calls could prove awkward, shoving a copy in your bag and saying you’ll read it before bed is the patriotic thing to do.

• A certain member of the Joint Chiefs of Staff likes to give “wedgies.” This has led to a tacit endorsement of the practice down through the ranks. If you happen to get cornered, try to laugh goodheartedly during the “pull.” Remember, these are our guests.