Friday, September 24, 2010

Poems for Banned Books Week (September 25-October 2, 2010)

I read with interest Alvina's post Speak Loudly the other day. I was really touched by the poem Listen that Laurie Halse Anderson wrote based on reader response to her book Speak. I'm posting Laurie's poem at Blue Rose Girls for you today--along with a poem that author Ellen Hopkins wrote last year for Banned Books Week and two poems that I wrote some time ago.

From the (September 24, 2009)
Banned Books Week adopts author's anti-censorship poem as manifesto
US author Ellen Hopkins, whose young adult fiction tackles controversial topics, writes a poem addressing censorship to coincide with Banned Books Week (2009)

An author of young adult fiction whose books have provoked bans and complaints in the US for tackling controversial topics such as teenage prostitution and drug addiction has written a poem that is being used to champion the cause of banned books across America.

The author, Ellen Hopkins, this week saw a school visit in Oklahoma cancelled after a parent complained about her New York Times bestselling novels Crank and Glass – loosely based on her own daughter's story of addiction to crystal meth. "I have had my books challenged before, but never had an event cancelled because of a challenge. I was then and remain incensed that a single person could go to the school and make that happen," said Hopkins. "No one person should have that kind of power. No person should be able to choose what anyone else's child can or can't read, let alone who they can see speak to. Some of the kids were devastated."

The idea to write a poem addressing banned books and censorship came to her after all her books were banned from an Idaho town, she said, because her novel Burned features a Mormon girl who is questioning her faith because she can't get help for her family, whose patriarch is abusive. "Pocatello has a large Mormon population, but half the town isn't Mormon. And the book isn't a slam against the religion, anyway ... it's one girl's story," she said. "How can half the town censor the other's ability to read something? Anyway, that's where the idea came for me to write a poem."

Here are two excerpts from Manifesto—the anti-censorship poem written by Ellen Hopkins:

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.

You say you’re afraid for children,
innocents ripe for corruption
by perversion or sorcery on the page.
But sticks and stones do break
bones, and ignorance is no armor.
You do not speak for me,
and will not deny my kids magic
in favor of miracles.

You say you’re afraid for America,


A word to the unwise.
Torch every book.
Char every page.
Burn every word to ash.
Ideas are incombustible.
And therein lies your real fear.

You can read the rest of the poem here.

Here is a revised version of a poem that I wrote in 2007 when there was a big kerfuffle going on over The Higher Power of Lucky, the children's novel that had won the Newbery Medal. Some folks were upset because Susan Patron, the author, used the word "scrotum" in her book. I'm posting the revised poem for Banned Books Week 2010. BTW, I’ve left off the final couplet that was included in the original poem: Who’s got a solution antidotal/For the current row o’er something scrotal?.

Book Talk
by Elaine Magliaro

Dressed in uniforms of blue,
The word police arrived at two.
With laser eyes, they scanned our pages
And locked our naughty words in cages.
Then up we cried: “You’ve taken text!
Will you remove our pictures next?”

“Your pictures?” one policeman said.
“We only take the stuff that’s read.
Your naughty words must be excised.
Let all your authors be advised
To watch their words when they compose
Their poetry…and all their prose.”

Warning given…the men in blue
Then turned to leave. They bid adieu.
We books now left with words deleted
Feel somehow, sadly, incompleted.

Last fall, I wrote a poem about the Conservative Bible Project for my blog Political Verses. I originally posted it on October 20, 2009.

Here’s a little background information about the Conservative Bible Project from the New York Daily News (10/06/09):'s Conservative Bible Project aims to deliberalize the bible

Forget attacking liberal bias in Hollywood or in the media. One group says it's the Bible that's gotten too progressive.

The Conservative Bible Project is leading the charge to deliberalize the Bible by using a Wikipedia-like Web site to correct what it calls "errors in conveying biblical meaning."

Those errors are a "lack of precision in the original language, such as terms underdeveloped to convey new concepts introduced by Christ," "lack of precision in modern language" and "translation bias in converting the original language to the modern one."

On its Web site - which is emblazoned with an Old Glory logo above the words "The Trustworthy Encyclopedia" - the group is seeking to create a fully conservative translation of the Bible that follows 10 commandments, er, guidelines.

A Poem about the Conservative Bible Project
by Elaine Magliaro

The Bible’s way too liberal—
And nothing could be worse.
Let’s go rewrite the holy book—
Each chapter, line and verse.

We’ll tell the stories “our way”—
Toss out the liberal bias—
The way the good Lord wants us to.
The devil can’t deny us.

We’ll include free market parables,
Excise the stuff we hate,
Avoid gender inclusive language
That can emasculate

The Great Book that we live by.
We’ll write the stories “right”—
Translate them “fundamentally”
To conservatives’ delight.


Banned and Challenged Classics from the American Library Association

Banned and/or Challenged Books from the Radcliffe Publishing Course Top 100 Novels of the 20th Century courtesy of the American Library Association

Books Challenged & Banned in 2008-2009 from the American Library Association

The Ten Most Challenged Titles according to the American Library Association (out of 460 challenges reported to the Office of Intellectual Freedom in 2009).

Slideshow of the Top Ten Most Challenged Titles 2009-2010 from

The 11 Most Surprising Banned Books from Huffington Post
(First Posted: 03-29-10 07:33 AM Updated: 05-29-10 05:12 AM )

Banned Books Week from Amnesty International
During Banned Books Week, Amnesty International directs attention to the plight of individuals who are persecuted because of the writings that they produce, circulate or read. Traditionally, Banned Books Week activities take place at the end of each September -- but the featured cases are not confined to a week. They continue to need your action.

The Kids’ Right to Read Project
A collaboration of the American Booksellers Foundation for Free Expression (ABFFE) and the
National Coalition Against Censorship (NCAC), the Kids’ Right to Read Project offers support, education, and advocacy to people facing book challenges or bans and engages local activists in promoting the freedom to read.

Texas Education Board Bans Popular Children's Author by Mistake from Wild Rose Reader (Januray 7, 2010).


At Wild Rose Reader, I have The Super Duper “Things to Do” Poems Post.

Karen, at The Blog With the Shockingly Clever Title, is doing the Poetry Friday Roundup today.


Meghan McCarthy said...

I love Anderson's poem. What a great thing.

Elaine Magliaro said...


I loved her poem too--and how she used responses from the readers of her book "Speak" to "speak out" in her poem "Listen."

Julia Cates said...

A Poem about the Conservative Bible Project is beautiful.
Thanks for share
wedding poems