Laurels for the LiberalLibraries should challenge censorship in the fulfillment of their responsibility to provide information and enlightenment.
—American Library Association, “Library Bill of Rights”
When they reach a certain point—those
poets and professors
—a point of established-order approval
with accolades and literary prizes,
honorary titles, illustrious publications,
and emeritus positions,
rise they do to the rank
of revered cogs of the “machine,”
the one Thoreau so detested and
eschewed for its intrinsic corruption
—rather “let your life be a counterfriction
to stop the machine”!
—when they reach that point, they
no longer really give a damn about
democracy, free speech, and the
importance of questioning and challenging
all institutions and icons.
“Poetry,” had said the self-professed
anti-authority poet,* “should be passionate
and outrageous and political
and most of all revolutionary.”
Yet he’d been chosen State Laureate by
politicians and sycophant literati;
he’d been designated safe entity
by the corporate-friendly poet community
proclaiming him distinguished poet
while ordaining him Chancellor
of the established-order Academy!
“I am a radical,” he’d blathered,
“although as I get older sometimes,
I get too soft and am just a liberal.”
But greed for posterity, thirst for high-brow
respect requisitely Faustian pacted
—a blind eye in exchange for renown—
sucks, no matter what the piteous excuse.
Revolutions will always prove hollow
citizens of that ilk publicly proclaim them!
So, no wonder I thought,
the Friends of the Concord
Free Public Library
had paid him to read verse, for his would likely
not perturb, provoke, or otherwise offend
any of the comfy souls seated before him,
basking in “liberal” stupor.
*Gerald Stern is a Chancellor of the Academy of American Poets, which censored my ideas from its literary agora in July 2007. Rather than vigorous debate, cornerstone of democracy, it and its members prefer highly-subjective, free-speech-limiting rules of participation, enabling it and them to censor at will ideas they choose to deem “inflammatory, hateful, and insulting” or not sufficiently “rational, calm, and informed.” Indeed, this very poem would likely be deemed thusly, for anything questioning and challenging the Academy or any of its poet icons and chancellors would likely be banned in accord with those nebulous terms. Libraries across the country support the Academy’s National Poetry Month… and also its censorship of valid criticism. That’s why I stand out here tonight in the cold darkness, distributing this broadside. Do you too believe that “good taste” and subjectively-determined “manners” should always take precedence over truth, vigorous debate, and free speech? Do you think librarians should “challenge censorship” in accord with the American Library Association’s “Library Bill of Rights,” or simply be agents of censorship, as many seem to have become today? If you are not a partisan of censorship, why not send a protest to the Academy and Friends of the Concord Free Public Library?