In response to:

Protest from the December 21, 1967 issue

To the Editors:

Robert Bly’s detestation of the Vietnam war [NYR, Letters, Dec. 21, 1967] does him credit. Unfortunately his logic does not. Nor does his psychoanalyzing of those of us who, unlike him, have accepted grants from the National Foundation on the Arts and the Humanities in the midst of that war.

Mr. Bly has called for the resignations of Roger Stevens and Carolyn Kizer. Why not of the Postmaster General? His department has been involved, as the National Foundation has not, in providing logistical support for the Vietnam horror, but apparently Mr. Bly continues to avail himself of the services offered by that agency of the government to anti-war poets as well as to killers. Has he considered urging the resignations of the staffs of the Peace Corps; Vista, the Office of Education? Has he composed an appeal to students on scholarships, apprentices in training programs, the sick in hospitals, and the poor of our great cities to spurn federal money and thereby join him in “making themselves whole,” “uniting their inner and outer selves,” and engaging in all the other splendid health-giving activities endorsed by poets in the columns of literary journals?

I would not presume, as does Mr. Bly, to speak for all of my colleagues who are availing themselves of grants the establishment of which they had long sought through such organizations as PEN and the Authors League. It is possible, although somehow I doubt it, that there are those among them who are gratefully composing fiction and verse in celebration of Johnson and Humphrey; or even that others among them are passive collaborators who attempt to excuse themselves as “not political.” But speaking for myself I am pleased to bear witness that thus far there has been no indication from the offices of Mr. Stevens or Miss Kizer as to the direction that my work in progress should take; nor—what is perhaps more to the point—have they communicated with me about my anti-Vietnam war opinions and activities, which have not been exactly secret, or about my affiliation, since receiving a grant, with the Writers & Editors War Tax Protest.

The fact is that while Mr. Bly has every right, like Mr. Clancy Sigal and perhaps others as well, to decline a grant, it does not follow that he must blacken all others who do not follow the particular path down which his conscience takes him: Mr. Bly’s analogies with gauleiters and collaborators are no more apropos than Mr. Rusk’s analogies with Munichmen and appeasers. Life—and art—are more complex than some poets and politicians would imagine.

Harvey Swados

Cagnes S/Mer (A-M)


This Issue

January 18, 1968