There's something, at least for the public, in a 'controvertial' and 'censored' art.
I don't know if Beat Generation would have existed as a 'recognised movement'
if 'Howl' and 'Naked Lunch' hadn't been banned. I mean, it got them on TV, didn't
it? Said that, there's nothing worse than censorship when there is a serious threat
of death, imprisonment or public defamation. A bullet in the head or a nose around
the neck won't help poets thrive unless you believe in an afterlife or ghost-
stories. In Iran, and outside of Iran, many poets have been killed and assasinated
because of criticising the Islamic regime. Sure, they may have become martyrs for
people like me, but I doubt that their poetry thrived from them being dead. However,
as much as I abhor a tyranny, I'm not all that sure if and out-and-out democracy is
all that healthy for poetry since any democratic system is way too vulnerable to
favouratism, commercialism, corruption and the real killer of poetry in our
time, 'net-working' i.e. 'you stroke mine, I'll stroke yours'. But I'm fairly sure
that cesorship is NOT the answer. I agree with Mark that lack of attention makes
poets excelle, so maybe we can come up with an anti-vanity exercise-routine which
all poets will be expected to practice every morning- ala '1984'. Either way, it's
not in darkness that poetry grows; it certainly needs light, generosity,
enlightenment and freedom. It's just that our current system (with journals,
microphones, grants and universities) is very open to abuse by the vain, the greedy
and the 'careerists', and poetry as an art-form has suffered a lot from that, but
dictatorship is not the soltuion. Besides which, we laready HAVE censorship in our
brave new world; I've been told personally that I need to tone down if I want more
---- Original Message ----
From: Mark Weiss
Date: Thu 3/8/01 14:06
To: [log in to unmask]
Subject: Re: STIMULUS: POETRY AND CENSORSHIP
Very interesting, but not universally true, I think. Most societies in most
places hve valued poetry to the near exclusion of other forms of writing,
and poetry has thrived in those places. But let's take a repressive place
close to home. Cuba experienced an explosion of poetry in the late 30s,
ending in the late 60s when the current regime decided to crack down on
writers and homosexuals. In that period there was little to no censorship.
The repression that began in earnest with the Padilla case in I think 1968
had a negative effect on a generation of poets, altho there continued to be
a stream of interesting work. In the last decade a new generation of poets,
born during or after the revolution, has reacted to repression in
interesting ways and begun to write pretty wonderful stuff.
Worth remembering the burst of creative energy in the early years following
the Bolshevik revolution in the former USSR. It was that burst of energy, I
think, that carried poetry and those poets who managed to survive the
horrors that followed for the next 30 odd years until that generation was
Nobody, as far as I remember, threatened Whitman or Dickenson, or much
later Olson or Creeley, with anything more severe than being ignored, and
the work thrived.
I think you may mean that when a regime that exercises censorship but also
heavily underwrites the publication of poetry fails poetry has to struggle.
But I suspect that has more to do with the loss of funding than the loss of
At 09:06 PM 3/7/2001 +0000, Peter Howard wrote:
>Poetry needs censorship to thrive. In societies where poetry is
>censored, people read it avidly; it becomes influential. Of course, one
>of the changes it tries to bring about is its own de-censorship, and
>when that's achieved, poetry loses its influence. It wanes to a minority
>interest, derided by most of those who don't ignore it.
>Censoring poetry is a foolish action for those who want to suppress its
>influence. If you really want to render it ineffective, pour money into
>subsidising magazines that would otherwise be unable to afford to
>publish it, and organisations that do their utmost to promote it. Make
>sure that anyone who can string two words together has the opportunity
>to have their poetry published in some form or other.
>Poetry grows best in the dark. If you want yours to be effective, go
>somewhere it's forbidden, where if you're caught with it you might get
>your hands broken, or be locked up and have to write on soap. Somewhere
>you'll live in the shadows and might disappear. And be prepared to take
>That's the easy way. The hard way is to remain where poetry is
>permitted. And try to make it have an effect.