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Dear editor of the local Jewish newspaper – an epistolary poem

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letter featured
Thank you for agreeing to remove
my essay from your website.
I hope you won’t take what I’m writing
as an attack on you personally,
which isn’t my intention.
However, I don’t understand why your copy editor
altered my essay in the first place.
I wonder why your copy editor felt the need
to make even a single change,
let alone at least five of them.
 
I found out about these changes while reading
the print copy of this month’s ________ issue.
It states quite plainly that my essay
previously aired on the radio –
and as such is a reprint.
Was something unclear or missing in the original?
Or does your copy editor simply
have no other way of occupying his or her time
but by imposing unnecessary modifications
on all submitted prose?
 
The essay I presented to you
was about four-hundred words long 
similar in length to what I’m now writing.
Before this essay aired on the radio,
each word was carefully vetted by the radio show’s two producers.
Together, the producers and I deliberated three different endings.
Four recordings were made.
And then along comes your semi-literate copy editor 
and decides to make at least five changes to my essay,
with no one at your paper bothering to ask what I thought.
 
My impulse has been
to try to share my writing
with the Jews
in the area where I live
through their communal newspaper.
But after years of repeated disappointments,
I have to conclude
that this is a mistaken impulse,
and that I ought to stop striving
to reach ________’s Jewish community through ________.
 
I appreciate the encouragement
and (non-monetary) support you’ve given
to some of my projects over the years,
but I’m tired of copy editors at your paper trying
to justify their salaries or maintain their self-esteem
by pointlessly tampering with my material.
Their meddling has resulted in gross inaccuracies,
in grammatical errors,
in ugly or incoherent sentences,
and in a waste of my (and your) time. 
 
It seems unlikely I’m the only one
whose writing is being marred
by ________’s copy editors,
though maybe I’m the only one
acutely troubled by the results.
I say there’s something
deeply amiss
in how your copy editors see their roles.
They have wholly misplaced conceptions
of their own skills and abilities.
 
I’m writing this as much to myself
as to you,
the better to remember 
when I may again have the thought
of sending a piece along to ________ –
that I must absolutely
avoid that impulse.
It’s not worth the headache.
I'm done with ________.
Shabbat shalom and happy Hanukah.
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Shai Afsai’s articles and poems have appeared in Anthropology Today, Journal of the American Revolution, Poetica Magazine, Reform Jewish Quarterly, Shofar: An Interdisciplinary Journal of Jewish Studies, Studies: An Irish Quarterly Review, and Tablet Magazine.
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