Miscommunication blamed for W.Va. poem flap

Published on NewsOK Modified: March 12, 2014 at 11:47 am •  Published: March 12, 2014

CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP) — State officials blame miscommunication for rejecting a student's plan to recite a poem about the Upper Big Branch mine explosion at a state arts event.

Hurricane High School student Grace Pritt selected "Black Diamonds" by Charleston poet Crystal Good to recite at the Governor's Arts Awards on Thursday in Charleston. A grant coordinator with the Division of Culture and History sent an email to Pritt telling her that she couldn't read the poem because it "deals with coal and many state representatives will be there," media outlets reported.

The division drew criticism from the arts community and others after an image of the email appeared on social media sites.

"A lot of people in our community felt like I do and that's very wrong — you don't censor art in that capacity and you certainly don't censor it because the audience is going to be full of, I forget the language in that, officials or whomever," Good told the Charleston Daily Mail (http://bit.ly/1cR6WsZ). "I think this is the one place in West Virginia where we can have sincere freedom of expression. The other feeling is feeling for Grace. Poetry is not an easy thing and you don't get many venues, even in West Virginia we may be limited there also. It was heartbreaking to think she was so enthusiastic and then to be censored this way."

Caryn Gresham, Culture and History deputy commissioner, said the incident was a miscommunication. She said Pritt will recite the poem at Thursday's event, which is part of the national Poetry Out Loud program.

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