Poetry Cops: An Investigation

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FINDING THE RIGHT ANALOGY FOR TODAY’S CENSORS

WHO are the Poetry Cops? How do we best describe them?

We’ve already used the pod person analogy from “Invasion of the Body Snatchers.” Close, but incomplete.  How about Programmed Robots? Blackballers use stock phrases and code words as if the phrases had been programmed into them.

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OR: Leninists?

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SPEAKING of which, there’s this. A Poetry Cop?

Their biggest mistake? Calling her a lady.

“That’s no business, that’s social injustice.”
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The “Mean Girls” analogy has already been put forward–

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FINALLY, we come to the most accurate parallel: Carry Nation:

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–and her acolytes:

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The cause may have changed, but the impulse remains the same: Stamp out bad behavior and the hint of untoward words, opinions and ideas wherever they’re found. BAN THEM!
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Beneath the silliness is a core truth. Freedom of expression is a value for the public-at-large. But for the artist, the writer, the musician, the poet, it’s VITAL. It’s everything.

Begin restricting language, the free expression of opinions and ideas, and you kill art.
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“Poets in Name Only”

When you’re squealing and snitching and stoolin’ and lying,
when banning other writers takes up all of your time,

Hunting down opinions different from your own,
not thinking of the damage and destruction you have sown.

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You’ve lost your credibility, poetical integrity.

You’d like another target, another carcass on your wall;
Kill ALL the other poets you’ll be the fairest of them all–
(you think)–
but the portrait in your closet says your cause is gonna stall.

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We don’t want your duplicity, mendacious mediocrity.

It’s ego it’s ambition it’s politics it’s pose,
narcissistic bonfires of art is how you want to close.

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Keep your hellish attitudes, your social justice platitudes. . . .

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-Karl Wenclas, New Pop Lit NEWS

Who Defends Artistic Expression?

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THE LATEST NEWS is that literary editors are adding what they themselves refer to as Morality Clauses to their sites. Not an aesthetic guideline for submitted work– the clause regards the writers themselves. Editors are doing background checks on writers via google and other tools. Background checks! The mindset has come full circle. We’ve entered a neo-puritan world.

For these uptight-to-the-max editors, getting along with the herd– enforcing an ideology– is their primary focus. Art is a secondary consideration.

THE EDITING POLICE

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These literary editors have taken it upon themselves to monitor the writer’s behavior– including after the work has been published. “Yep, he did something regrettable and embarrassing. We published his poem five years ago. Doesn’t matter. Yank it out!”

The entire history of literature is filled with writers engaging in bad behavior. (It once was a badge of honor.) Beginning with Christopher Marlowe– who wouldn’t make the cut in this day and age. Neither would Shakespeare. There’s that rather disconcerting speech in Hamlet when he says, “Get thee to a nunnery!” Hurtful words. Yank his works.

WHEN I fronted an activist group from about 2000 to 2008, our numbers included many outcasts, outsiders, and those who regularly engaged in bad behavior. They were from every possible ideological stripe, left to right. We had no litmus tests or background checks.

Today, we see Editor-as-Cop. “Are your papers in order? Where are your papers! Can you prove you did not engage in harassment and abuse?” (One silly lit editor argued for Rachel Custer proving she hadn’t engaged in verbal abuse.)

AT ONE TIME, the novel, poem or play itself was considered verbal abuse! Its very existence.

Has the writer engaged in bad behavior outside the walls of  our little literary project known as New Pop Lit? What’s that to me? I’m a literary editor. If he or she has broken a law, report them to the authorities.

A QUESTION: Would you publish a story or poem by a convicted murderer sitting in prison if the work were good enough? 

LAST LINE OF DEFENSE

Every other segment of society has reasons to limit or crush artistic expression. The state, the advertiser, the dependent-on-donors foundation, the speech-squelching university, the project-a-proper-image corporation. It’s the task of the artist; the writer– and the editor, the publisher, the promoter, the arts impresario– to stand up for creative expression. For the ability to be creative. The ability to surprise, stir, anger, or shock. If not us: Who else?
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-Karl Wenclas, New Pop Lit News