Fall 1990 • Vol. XII No. 4 Editorials |

The Freedom to Talk Dirt

The current debate over obscenity, government funding, and the arts has set me to thinking about dirt, what it is and why we have such trouble with it. "Dirt is matter out of place," goes an old saying. Egg on my plate is breakfast, but egg on my)face is dirt. Shoes in the closet are tidy, but shoes on the table are not. Certain movies shown in Covington, Kentucky, are commerce; across the Ohio River in Cincinnati they are filth. Dirt is also the anomalous, not just what is out of place but what has no place at all, or at least no place in the center of things. Cleaning house, we take those items that belong nowhere, call them "trash," and haul them to the dump at the edge of town. "Dirt" that belongs no place may be hard to get rid of, but at least we can keep it out of sight. "Out of place" or "out of sight," either way, dirt is a sort of by-product of creating order. Where there is dirt there is always a system of some kind, and an argument about dirt is always an argume

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Lewis Hyde's books include Common as Air: Revolution, Art, and Ownership (FSG, 2010), The Gift: Imagination and the Erotic Life of Property (Random House 1983; reprinted 2007), Trickster Makes This World: Mischief, Myth, and Art (FSG, 1998), and the book of poems This Error is the Sign of Love (Milkweed Editions, 1988). He has edited a volume of essays on Henry David Thoreau and a book of responses to the poetry of Allen Ginsberg, and has translated the selected poems of Vicente Aleixandre. Hyde's many awards include grants from the National Endowment for the Arts, the National Endowment for the Humanities, the Lannan Foundation, and the Guggenheim Foundation. In 1991 he was named a MacArthur Foundation Fellow. He is currently the Richard L. Thomas Chair in Creative Writing at Kenyon College. In addition to Pablo Neruda, Hyde has translated Spain's 1976 Nobel laureate, Vicente Aleixandre.

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