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Nov. 13 2008 3:53 AM

A Good Party With Poetry

Readers adding value.

There's more Fray participation to go with that mentioned below: Paul Bloom's "Faith-Based" article on whether religion makes you nice produced a phenomenal response from readers, who turned up in their hundreds to discuss it. Among them were psychologists Ara Norenzayan and Azim Shariff, whose recent work was mentioned in the article and who came to make several points on the issue, including "surveys asking people to report on their own virtuous behavior can be unreliable" and "Were American atheists to form moral communities in the way that religious folk do, it might make them happier. But it would also make them likely to adopt many of the unsavory aspects of groupishness that many of their banded religious brothers exhibit." Article author Paul Bloom came into the Fray to answer them. You can read the argument in full at the end of the article or in the Fray here.—MR9:00 a.m. GMT


Wednesday, Nov. 12,  2008

It's participation week in the Fray: Bring out your poetry criticism and your koans.

Slate Poetry Editor Robert Pinsky is taking part in the "Poem" Fray: Post your questions and comments on "There Was a Man of Double Deed," and he'll respond to as many as possible. There've been some great discussions already, and poets Mark DotyPaul Breslin, and Jim Powell have jumped in, too. Mr. Pinksy says, "I … feel some of the pleasure of giving what seems to be a good party."

A quick sample: MaryAnn said:

It always amazes me when I discover that poems like "There Was a Man of Double Deed" were included in 19th century anthologies of nursery rhymes. Perhaps this poem has the moralizing intent of reminding children (and other listeners) that every story inevitably leads to death, regardless of the off-beat twists and turns along the way.

Robert Pinsky responded

I agree with MaryAnn that the rhymes—and the leaping narrative?—provide, for child or adult, a kind of talisman or armor against the dread or violence or disruption. A central principle of art?

It's fascinating, value-added content—everything a Fray could and should be. And still going on right now.

Over at "Culturebox," Jessica Winter has been seeingNew York Times headlines as koans, and readers are encouraged to offer their own examples. Octibus has gone off in another direction—s/he likes headlines about being ready for your close-up—but all contributions will be gratefully received.