Lois read where some noted assessor of poetry had opined that American poetry was in danger of losing its "greatness.'
She was relieved to know that, at least by inference, poetry from Mexico, Canada, South Africa, Sweden, Japan, Cuba, Iran, Luxembourg, and Egypt (for example) was going to retain its greatness.
Lois didn't, however, know what the man meant by "greatness," which she suspected might be a quality much debated in some circles, squares, and rhombuses, and which in most cases was a manufactured, illusory status, as it was in the case of soft-drinks, popular music, and vegetables.
Also, how (Lois wondered) would this fellow know about American poetry? Sure, he allegedly read a lot of it, but still, what percentage of all American poetry had he, did he, read? Not only hadn't he defined greatness, but his statistical sample was suspect, the greater sin in this Age of Stats.
Then, of course, there was The Dickinson Factor. Assuming we might agree on what greatness meant, assuming we could read all American poetry being written, some great American poetry might be getting produced by people who kept it to themselves, out of sight. Dickinson had loathed publication. She put her stitched-together books in drawers. She even wrote a poem mocking publication. And yet her poetry had been published, eventually, and it turned out to be great.
Lois suspected that the Noted Opiner might be a fan of such American Poetic Titans as Walt Whitman, Ezra Pound, T.S. Eliot, and Allen Ginsberg, whose poetry was like a train that announced itself as Great before it roared through town. After it roared through town, there were critics riding on the back of the caboose reminding the town that some great poetry had just roared through. Wa-hoo!
Lois believed several things about American poetry--and about poetry in general. She believed it was less concerned with its citizenship than people assumed. She knew of no poem that carried a passport. Second, Lois believed greatness was like a shuttlecock that critics batted back and forth on the sunny lawn of criticism, back behind the old-fashioned sanitarium. On the list of, say, three million things to worry about, "the greatness of American poetry" probably didn't rank higher than 2, 753,618.
Finally, Lois believed that if American poets--indeed, all poets--just kept using the word "red" from time to time, and well, their poetry would be just fine, "just fine" being a kind of breeding ground for greatness. "Shun not the word 'red,' poets": that was Lois's sage advice. As for the man who'd gotten a head-start on mourning the loss of great American poetry, Lois had these words of hidden advice: "Silly boy."