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      DURHAM, NC--A study released Monday by Duke University's Center For The American Family confirmed what many child-development experts have asserted for years: Children whose parents are divorced are twice as likely to compose bad poetry as those whose parents are married.

      "Because of the terrible trauma divorce can inflict, we're seeing a correlation between kids from broken homes and embarrassing, god-awful verse," said Dr. Ruth Wyler-Feldman, director of the Center For The American Family. "Devastated by the break-up of the family unit, these children are responding with poems awash in bathos, forced rhymes and mixed metaphors comparing their souls to rainstorms."

      According to Wyler-Feldman, parental separation most often manifests itself in atrocious poems about isolation and anger.

      "Just listen to the words of Ashley Bedrosian, a Pensacola, FL, 14-year-old whose parents split up last May after 17 years of marriage: 'The pain comes down like a harlequin's tears / From my room I can hear my parents screaming / What once was one heart now beats as two / From this nightmare I cannot awake, for I am not dreaming.'"

      "Obviously, Ashley is bitter and heartbroken over her parents' divorce," Wyler-Feldman said. "And that's tragic, because what comes out of that bitterness and heartbreak is some of the worst poetry you'll ever hear."

      The two-year study found that the rhyming of "despise" with "my eyes," as well as references to Trent Reznor and horses running wild and/or free, occur with 65 percent greater frequency in poems by children of divorced parents than in those by children from stable two-parent homes.

      The Duke researchers also found a strong correlation between the nature of a particular divorce and quality of poetry. In 90 percent of divorces categorized as "amicable," the breakup results in rhyming poems, usually with irritating, "sing-songish" A-B-A-B rhyme schemes. The more acrimonious the split, however, the greater the odds of a child turning to other, more wretch-inducing poetic forms: Eighty-five percent of contested divorces end in free verse, the study found, and three in four divorces involving custody battles end in haiku.
 
Above: A poem by Roanoke, VA, 15-year-old Meredith Deering, whose parents recently separated.

      "These children of divorce are really hurting," noted therapist Dr. Eli Wasserbaum said. "But not nearly as much as those of us forced to read this drivel."

      Wasserbaum urged America's troubled couples to split up while their children are still very young. "If you have children who are, say, between the ages of three and nine, and you suspect you might not want to spend the rest of your life with your spouse, I would urge you to get divorced now," he said. "At least that way, your kids have a fighting chance to heal emotionally before they reach their prime poetry-writing teenage years, and we can all be spared reading about a beautiful rose that withers and dies because no sunlight ever fell upon it."

      "The bottom line is, America's kids could be channeling their anger over the 'loss' of a parent into moving verse, but they're churning out melodramatic crap instead," said Dirk Fransette, director of the Young Writers' Workshop, a Brookline, MA, writing program for 13- to 18-year-olds. "If I have to read one more poem about a lighthouse, I am going to carve out my eyeballs."

      The study has provoked strong reactions among young people nationwide.

      "You just don't understand," said Ethan Cameron, 14, of Salem, OR.

      Cameron, whose parents recently split up, self-publishes a literary website called Visitation Rites. Among the high-school freshman's poems: "Detention Of The Soul," "My Trenchcoat" and "Bruised."

      "Saying that all our poetry is bad, well, it just isn't fair," said 15-year-old Melody Jeffords of Knoxville, TN, whose parents divorced when she was 13. "My parents and teachers just don't understand my pain. Or, as my new poem 'Trust' puts it: 'Who can you trust / With thoughts inside your head? / You can't trust anyone / Unless they're already dead.'"

      Wyler-Feldman said that while the Duke study has shed a great deal of light on the link between divorce and bad poetry, there is still much to be learned.

      "So much is still unknown. For example, why so much thunder and lightning imagery? Why so many references to The Crow? And why the recent rise in short stories ending with alarm clocks ringing, revealing the entire story to be a dream? We must answer these crucial questions before we can ever hope to find a cure."


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