Aram Saroyan 1965

Magic Carpet, 2008

One of Saroyan's most famous poems was simply the unconventionally spelled word "lighght" in the center of a blank page. This poem was selected by George Plimpton to be featured in The American Literary Anthology and, like all poems in the volume, received a $500 cash award from the National Endowment for the Arts, then just five years old. Many conservatives, such as Representative William Scherle and Senator Jesse Helms, objected at the per-word amount of the award, complaining that the word was not a real poem and was not even spelled correctly. This was the NEA's first major controversy; the "lighght" controversy was still being referenced by conservatives to decry the NEA 25 years later.

Saroyan was 22!

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