Officials wrong on poem issue

Thoughtful West Virginians recognize that along with the blessings of the coal industry have come terrible curses in the form of disasters that, through the years, have claimed hundreds of lives. Pretending those tragedies did not occur serves no one well.

It appears someone in the state Division of Culture and History does not fully understand that.

Grace Pritt, a Huntington High School student, was invited to recite a poem during the Governor’s Arts Awards ceremony held on Friday in Charleston. On Monday, Pritt was told she would not be permitted to deliver the poem of her choice.

Pritt chose “Black Diamonds,” by Charleston poet Crystal Good. The poem’s theme is the widows of the 29 men killed in the 2010 Upper Big Branch Mine disaster.

Pritt was informed by an email message from Tabitha Walter of the DCH. It stated that “because your poem deals with coal and many state representatives will be (at the ceremony), our director wants you to choose a different poem.”

After word of the action spread, embarrassed state officials altered course. Pritt was allowed to read “Black Diamonds.”

Renee Margocee, director of the arts for the DCH, said the email “was simply a miscommunication … this has just kind of gotten blown out of proportion.”

Not really. Someone in the DCH clearly does not understand one of the ways in which art enriches our lives and serves as more than mere entertainment.

Good for the young high school student for choosing “Black Diamonds” – and defending her choice. At least she understands.