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Green Life

In: English and Literature

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Research Paper
Sara Lewis
Dec. 03, 2013

Censorship of Poetry

There are many debates and arguments on the topic of Censorship. However, in this essay, I will focus on only one; Censorship's importance in books and, more specifically, poetry. Some say, to protect our children, censorship is needed; cutting out overly violent and gory scenes and or sexual content, along with other inappropriate types of media, is very important in the lives of parents and children alike. Others, however, wish that censorship was not so strict. Censorship has removed content from schools that are considered necessary; classics like Tom Sawyer are in a dangerous spot, as is the works of DH Lawrence, because of this law that has control of what we see, hear, and expose ourselves to. In some cases, this law is useful; however, there are limits to what it can do. Censorship can go from simply trying to keep our media and content clean for our children, to full censorship and banning of books because of one simple word. Even though censorship is needed in most parts of the media to control the inappropriate content, it should not be used when it comes to scholastic content, especially books and poetry. Poets, especially, few this law as a ball and chain of sorts; not just poets, but artists, musicians, creators; all do not like it when one wrongly put word would mean the destruction of their whole work. But, when it comes to books, knowledge, and poetry, censorship should never be used. Censorship has been around for quite a while. It dates back all the way to 500
B.C. in Ancient Rome, where the word 'censor' was thought to mold the character of a person, and society as a whole (Masterson). Censorship, in Rome, was considered an honorable and high priority task. In China, censorship was considered a legitimate instrument for regulating the moral and political life of the population (Newth). "This ancient view of censorship, as a benevolent task in the best interest of the public, is still upheld in many countries, for example China. This notion was advocated by the rulers of the Soviet Union (USSR), who were responsible for the longest lasting and most extensive censorship era of the 20th Century."(Newth) Censorship (the suppression of speech and destruction of communicative material deemed harmful or inappropriate to society and it's people) has existed for nearly as long as communication itself has existed.
(Global History of Censorship). In the olden days, this form of writing was considered honorable. (Masterson) There are some countries in the world, still, that use this form of “honorable control”. However, even in history, censorship is known to be extreme. Cambridge Trinity
University banned the book Origin of Species by Darwin, even though he was a graduate of their school. The director of the Paris School for the Blind ordered all the books to be burned because he did not want students reading on their own (Masterson). Perhaps one of the greatest crimes of censorship was the execution of Socrates; he was sentenced to drink poison in 399 B.C. The people of his city were afraid of what his new ideas would do to their youth. (Newth) Censorship is a very extreme mechanism that can sometimes, and most times does, choke out new ideas and theories. “…the peculiar evil of silencing the expression of an opinion is, that it is robbing the human race; posterity as well as the existing generation; those who dissent from the opinion, still more than those who hold it. If the opinion is right, they are deprived of the opportunity of exchanging error for truth: if wrong, they lose, what is almost as great a benefit, the clearer perception and livelier impression of truth, produced by its collision with error.”(John Stewart Mill) This is the way that the famous John Mill viewed censorship; which is exactly what it is; and we need to remove it from our books, and especially from our poetry. Censorship is everywhere in the world; it controls what we see and hear, and sometimes, what we do. But how to the authors and poets of this world feel when censorship takes a hold of their work? What are the opinions of poets on this law that has the right to ban their work? Poets everywhere are taking a stand against this subject; as in evidence toward their writing. Many poets believe that DH Lawrence’s poems were to be saved from the censors pen. “His poems took aim at politicians, the brutality of the first world war and English repression – but censorship and sloppy editing rendered them virtually meaningless, to the extent that the full extent of his poetic talent has been overlooked.” (Alberge) The works of Lawrence were silenced because of the graphic way he wrote; but because of censorship, they lost their important meaning, and thus his works were overlooked by most of the society in his day. Another example is from the author Laurie Halse Anderson, who quoted “Censorship is the child of fear and the Father of ignorance,” and “Censoring books that deal with difficult, adolescent issues does not protect anybody. Quite the opposite. It leaves kids in the darkness and makes them vulnerable. …Our children cannot afford to have the truth of the world withheld from them.” (Anderson) She has strong opinions on the importance of unrequited knowledge for the generations to come, and is very opinionated on letting that information be free and uncensored. Poets, too, feel the same way; there have been poems strongly against the use of censorship in poetry; they view it as a corruption of creativity. There are several poets that express that passion against this law; one is a man named Edward Wilkes. “Censorship. No freedom for the poet to publish the scribe; means none will know of valuable truths for the words shall become buried with the poet who died.”(Wilkes)
Another is Ellen Hopkins, who takes a stand against censorship works of books and poetry. “To you zealots and bigots and false patriots who live in fear of discourse. You screamers and banners and burners, who would force books off shelves in your brand name of greater good… A word to the unwise. Torch every book. Char every page.
Burn every word to ash.”(Hopkins) She has also quoted, “But you do not have the right to decide "appropriateness" for everyone. What's perhaps not right for one child is necessary to another. Ignorance is no armor. And those whose lives are touched by the issues I write about deserve to know they are not alone.” Poets do not believe in the harm of censorship; using their creative skills, poets everywhere, both famous and common, are taking a stand against censorship. Learning is an important part of our society; limiting the learning material will not make our schools better. It’s terrifying to think that students can be denied much information and learning experiences because of censorship. As quoted from Mike Rose, “Our approaches to language and literacy as often as not keep us from deep understanding of differences and problems—and possibilities.” Students are being deprived of critical information because of this law. There are several Supreme Court Justices that believe this law could hurt scholastic learning. “That they are educating the young for citizenship is reason for scrupulous protection of Constitutional freedoms of the individual, if we are not to strangle the free mind at its source and teach youth to discount important principles of our government as mere platitudes.” —Supreme Court Justice Robert (Censorship in Schools). There have been 1,607 challenges to “sexually explicit” material, A study has also shown that students aren’t the only ones affected; teachers are too. Older, more experienced teachers were more likely aware and against the problem of school censorship than younger ones. It was shown that teachers need strong support from the school board, colleagues, and other influential sources to be encouraged to include diverse text. “Teachers in English departments that had active reading committees and regular discussions about texts were more likely to use non-traditional literature than those who taught in departments in which a process was implemented only when needed,” and “They were not as concerned as more experienced teachers about how censorship might affect their own selections of texts or their personal and professional lives.”(Agee)

Citation Page

• Masterson, W.. N.p.. Web. 3 Dec 2013. <http://viking.coe.uh.edu/~wmasterson/cuin7337/history.htm>. • Newth, M.. N.p.. Web. 3 Dec 2013. <http://www.beaconforfreedom.org/liste.html?tid=415&art_id=475>. • Alberge, Dayla Web. 4 Dec 2013 • http://www.theguardian.com/books/2013/mar/24/dh-lawrence-war-poetry-censorship • Web. 5 Dec 2013 < http://www.ala.org/bbooks/about> • "Quotes by Laurie Halse Anderson." Goodreads. good reads. Web. 5 Dec 2013. < http://www.goodreads.com/quotes/271077-censoring-books-that-deal-with-difficult-adolescent-issues-does-not> • Wilkes, Edward. Censorship. Poetry. Web. 5 Dec 2013. <http://www.poetry.com/poems/423629-CENSORSHIP>. • Hopkins, Ellen. "Anti-Censorship Manifesto." Huffington Post. About. Web. 5 Dec 2013. <http://childrensbooks.about.com/gi/o.htm?zi=1/XJ&zTi=1&sdn=childrensbooks&cdn=parenting&tm=33&f=10&su=p284.13.342.ip_p504.6.342.ip_&tt=2&bt=0&bts=0&zu=http://www.huffingtonpost.com/ellen-hopkins/banned-books-anticensorship-manifesto_b_744219.html>. • Agee, Jane. "The Effects of Censorshipon Experienced High School Teachers." Center on English and Learning Achievement . N.p., n.d. Web. 5 Dec 2013. <http://www.albany.edu/cela/publication/article/censor.htm>. • "Censorship in Schools ." American Library Association. N.p.. Web. 5 Dec 2013. http://www.ala.org/advocacy/intfreedom/censorshipfirstamendmentissues/censorshipschools • "Schools and Censorship: Banned Books." People for the American Way. N.p.. Web. 5 Dec 2013. <http://www.pfaw.org/issues/freedom-of-speech/schools-and-censorship-banned-books>.…...

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