This is the official blog of Northern Arizona slam poet Christopher Fox Graham. Begun in 2002, and transferred to blogspot in 2006, FoxTheBlog has recorded more than 423,000 hits since 2009. This blog cover's Graham's poetry, the Arizona poetry slam community and offers tips for slam poets from sources around the Internet. Read CFG's full biography here. Looking for just that one poem? You know the one ... click here to find it.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Shaikh Sammad wins the Oct. 23 Sedona Poetry Slam

Results from the Sedona Poetry Slam

Shaihk Sammad won the Sedona Poetry Slam, held Saturday, Oct. 23, 2010, Studio Live, Sedona, Arizona, 7:30 p.m.

We had veteran slammers but also a first-time slammer who gave it a go. We love these "virgin" slam poets because we were all first-timers once. We also admire the bravery to get up on stage for the first time. There were a lot of 10.0s, which are indicated by an asterisk *.

Round 1
Random Draw
Calibration poet and host Christopher Fox Graham of Sedona, "This County: A Lover's Geography"

Brian Towne, of Flagstaff, 27.5, (2:48)*
Christopher Harbster, of Flagstaff, 28.1, (3:06)**
Mikel Weisser, of Kingman, 29.0, (2:56)***
Shaikh Sammad, of Cottonwood, 29.9, (2:59)***
Maple Dewleaf, of Flagstaff, 26.8, (2:10)*
Richard Wagner, a first-time slammer from Ontario, Canada, 22.6, (1:34)
James Joseph Buhs, of White Plains, N.Y., 26.9, (3:02)**
Jessica Laurel Reese, of the Village of Oak Creek, 29.2, (1:34)*

Teaser poem by feature poet Doc Luben, "A New Hand"

Round 2
Reverse Order

Jessica Laurel Reese, 27.3, (2:25), 56.5*
James Joseph Buhs, 29.4, (2:20), 56.3**
Richard Wagner, 22.6, (1:16), 45.2*
Maple Dewleaf, 27.9, (1:55), 54.7*
Shaikh Sammad, 30.0, (2:55), 59.9****
Mikel Weisser, 28.1, (2:12), 54.7*
Christopher Harbster, 28.2, (2:17), 56.3
Brian Towne, 30.0, (2:43), 57.5****

Feature Poet
Doc Luben is a Tucson slam poet with more than a decade of professional theatre experience.

Luben has been stomping the stage in Los Angeles and Arizona since well before 1990. He recently completed a 17-city national poetry tour from Orlando, Fla., to Chicago to Detroit to Denver and many wild points between.

Luben was a panelist and performer at the 2010 Phoenix Comic-Con Nerd Slam and was the Tucson Poetry Slam Champion in 2009.

Luben's performance is a cocktail of twisty magic realism and sneaky, snarky humor. His poems are compressed life stories, marked by a rosy-cheeked love of screw-ups and contempt for those who claim enlightenment.

Luben earned his street cred in 1990s Los Angeles, writing and performing in loading-dock theater and guerrilla improv. He then squandered all of that street cred on a decade of Shakespeare with the Arizona Classical Theatre. In Prescott, he was tempted into the evils of slam poetry at the McCormick Arts District's poetry venue, the MAD Linguist.

Doc performed twice in the Arizona All-Star Slam, and enough time has gone by that he can reveal he did not technically qualify either time: they bent the rules to get him on stage, because he is just that good.

Luben was a featured poet at the first and later the last Arizona Spoken Word Festival and Slab City Slam at Arcosanti, the state's slam poetry tournament.

His plays have been featured productions at ACT, and has proudly taught subversive youth performance workshops for two decades. Luben trained at the freakishly progressive California Institute of the Arts, where they absolutely do not have Walt Disney's head frozen in the basement.

Also, your girlfriend has a crush on him. Don't worry. It's normal.

Round 3
High to Low

Shaikh Sammad, 29.6, (2:37), 89.5**
Brian Towne, 29.3, (2:51), 86.8*
Mikel Weisser, 28.1, (1:55), 85.2
Jessica Laurel Reese, 27.4, 26.9 after a -0.5 time penalty (3:18), 83.4
James Joseph Buhs, 27.9, (2:12), 84.2*
Christopher Harbster, 28.3, (2:39), 84.6*
Maple Dewleaf, 28.9, (2:13), 83.6*
Richard Wagner, 25.4, (0:35), 70.6

Final scores
1st: Shaikh Sammad, 89.5, $100

2nd: Brian Towne, 86.8

3rd: Mikel Weisser, 85.2

Christopher Harbster, 84.6
James Joseph Buhs, 84.2
Maple Dewleaf, 83.6
Jessica Laurel Reese, 83.4
Richard Wagner, 70.6

Slam staff
Scorekeeper and Timekeeper: Sarah Lepich
Host: Christopher Fox Graham
Organizers:
April Holman Payne, Studio Live
Christopher Fox Graham, Sedona 510 Poetry

Next Sedona Poetry Slam: Saturday, Dec. 11, 2010, Studio Live, Sedona, Arizona, 7:30 p.m., featuring Mesa's Brit Shostak.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Buy your tickets now for tonight's Sedona Poetry Slam

Click here to buy your tickets now for tonight's Sedona Poetry Slam, featuring poet Doc Luben.

The Sedona Poetry Slam hits the stage at Studio Live at 7:30 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 23, presenting three rounds of poetic competition as poets battle for pride and $100.

Between rounds, the audience will be entertained with a feature performance by Doc Luben, a Tucson slam poet with more than a decade of professional theatre experience.

Luben has been stomping the stage in Los Angeles and Arizona since well before 1990. He recently completed a 17-city national poetry tour from Orlando, Fla., to Chicago to Detroit to Denver and many wild points between.

Luben was a panelist and performer at the 2010 Phoenix Comic-Con Nerd Slam and was the Tucson Poetry Slam Champion in 2009.

Luben's performance is a cocktail of twisty magic realism and sneaky, snarky humor. His poems are compressed life stories, marked by a rosy-cheeked love of screw-ups and contempt for those who claim enlightenment.

Luben earned his street cred in 1990s Los Angeles, writing and performing in loading-dock theater and guerrilla improv. He then squandered all of that street cred on a decade of Shakespeare with the Arizona Classical Theatre. In Prescott, he was tempted into the evils of slam poetry at the McCormick Arts District's poetry venue, the MAD Linguist.

Doc performed twice in the Arizona All-Star Slam, and enough time has gone by that he can reveal he did not technically qualify either time: they bent the rules to get him on stage, because he is just that good.

Luben was a featured poet at the first and later the last Arizona Spoken Word Festival and Slab City Slam at Arcosanti, the state's slam poetry tournament.

His plays have been featured productions at ACT, and has proudly taught subversive youth performance workshops for two decades. Luben trained at the freakishly progressive California Institute of the Arts, where they absolutely do not have Walt Disney's head frozen in the basement.

Also, your girlfriend has a crush on him. Don't worry. It's normal.

All poets are welcome to compete in the slam.

Slammers will need three original poems, each lasting no longer than three minutes. No props, costumes nor musical accompaniment are permitted.

The poets will be judged Olympics-style by five members of the audience selected at random at the beginning of the slam. The top poet at the end of the night wins $100.

Poets who want to compete should purchase a ticket in case the roster is filled before they arrive.

Founded in Chicago by construction worker and poet Marc "So What?" Smith in 1984, poetry slam is a competitive artistic sport. Poetry slam has become an international artistic sport, with more than 100 major poetry slams in the United States, Canada, Australia and Western Europe.

The slam will be hosted by Sedona poet Christopher Fox Graham, who represented Northern Arizona on the Flagstaff team at five National Poetry Slams between 2001 and 2010. He has hosted and competed in poetry slams and open mics in Sedona since 2004.

Graham has performed in 40 states, Toronto, Dublin, Ireland, and London, and wrote the now infamous "Peach" poem.

For more information or to register, call Graham at (928) 517-1400 or e-mail to foxthepoet@yahoo.com.

Tickets are $5 online or $10 at the door.

Admission is free for poets who slam ... and they could win $100, so why not give it a go?

Home of the Sedona Performers Guild nonprofit, Studio Live is located at 215 Coffee Pot Drive, West Sedona. For more information, visit www.studiolivesedona.com.

See video from previous poetry slams at www.YouTube.com/FoxThePoet.

For more information about the worldwide phenomena of poetry slam, visit www.poetryslam.com.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Poet Doc Luben features at the Sedona Poetry Slam on Saturday, Oct. 23

Poet Doc Luben features at the Sedona Poetry Slam on Saturday, Oct. 23

The Sedona Poetry Slam hits the stage at Studio Live at 7:30 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 23, presenting three rounds of poetic competition as poets battle for pride and $100.

Between rounds, the audience will be entertained with a feature performance by Doc Luben, a Tucson slam poet with more than a decade of professional theatre experience.

Luben has been stomping the stage in Los Angeles and Arizona since well before 1990. He recently completed a 17-city national poetry tour from Orlando, Fla., to Chicago to Detroit to Denver and many wild points between.

Luben was a panelist and performer at the 2010 Phoenix Comic-Con Nerd Slam and was the Tucson Poetry Slam Champion in 2009.

Luben's performance is a cocktail of twisty magic realism and sneaky, snarky humor. His poems are compressed life stories, marked by a rosy-cheeked love of screw-ups and contempt for those who claim enlightenment.

Luben earned his street cred in 1990s Los Angeles, writing and performing in loading-dock theater and guerrilla improv. He then squandered all of that street cred on a decade of Shakespeare with the Arizona Classical Theatre. In Prescott, he was tempted into the evils of slam poetry at the McCormick Arts District's poetry venue, the MAD Linguist.

Doc performed twice in the Arizona All-Star Slam, and enough time has gone by that he can reveal he did not technically qualify either time: they bent the rules to get him on stage, because he is just that good.

Luben was a featured poet at the first and later the last Arizona Spoken Word Festival and Slab City Slam at Arcosanti, the state's slam poetry tournament.

His plays have been featured productions at ACT, and has proudly taught subversive youth performance workshops for two decades. Luben trained at the freakishly progressive California Institute of the Arts, where they absolutely do not have Walt Disney's head frozen in the basement.

Also, your girlfriend has a crush on him. Don't worry. It's normal.

All poets are welcome to compete in the slam.

Slammers will need three original poems, each lasting no longer than three minutes. No props, costumes nor musical accompaniment are permitted.

The poets will be judged Olympics-style by five members of the audience selected at random at the beginning of the slam. The top poet at the end of the night wins $100.

Poets who want to compete should purchase a ticket in case the roster is filled before they arrive.

Founded in Chicago by construction worker and poet Marc "So What?" Smith in 1984, poetry slam is a competitive artistic sport. Poetry slam has become an international artistic sport, with more than 100 major poetry slams in the United States, Canada, Australia and Western Europe.

The slam will be hosted by Sedona poet Christopher Fox Graham, who represented Northern Arizona on the Flagstaff team at five National Poetry Slams between 2001 and 2010. He has hosted and competed in poetry slams and open mics in Sedona since 2004.

Graham has performed in 40 states, Toronto, Dublin, Ireland, and London, and wrote the now infamous "Peach" poem.

For more information or to register, call Graham at (928) 517-1400 or e-mail to foxthepoet@yahoo.com.

Tickets are $5 online or $10 at the door.

Admission is free for poets who slam ... and they could win $100, so why not give it a go?

Home of the Sedona Performers Guild nonprofit, Studio Live is located at 215 Coffee Pot Drive, West Sedona. For more information, visit www.studiolivesedona.com.

See video from previous poetry slams at www.YouTube.com/FoxThePoet.

For more information about the worldwide phenomena of poetry slam, visit www.poetryslam.com.

Friday, October 15, 2010

My interview with El Salvador's Ambassador to the United States

When Francisco Altschul went off to the University of El Salvador to become an architect, he never expected to one day be his country’s ambassador.

Nor did he expect his country would be dragged into a decade of civil war and that he would flee after his name appeared on a death squad’s hit list.

Yet almost 20 years after war ended, Altschul spoke at Verde Valley School and the Sedona Public Library about how far his country has come. Among those achievements was the peaceful election of leftist President Maurico Funes from the political party that once led the fight against an oppressive regime.

For the full story on the Sedona Red Rock News website, click here -- and it's a great, in-depth article.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Unbreakable

And now that Banned Books Week is over ... back to Azami poetry.

Unbreakable

She’s unbreakable
but easily bent
as stubborn as a mule
but when push comes to shove
concaves her spine into the wind
so she doesn’t need me
until she needs
craves my embrace only
when it’s near enough to envelop her

in the absence,
we are just strangers sharing familiar history
and phone lines,
whispering “until I see you again …”
when she’s here,
we’re a psychic friends network
finishing each other’s thoughts
but languishing in the laborious lugubrious articulation of sentences
when she’s gone,
she becomes ancestral myth
remembered theoretically as a moral teaching tool
cleaving us apart
is like banishing a twin
while the collision together
equally disturbs our rhythms
shakes loose the axis of the galaxy
affecting space alien trade routes
halfway across the Orion Arm
until patterns synchronize and stabilize

I miss sharing her pulse
the give-and-take battles
of ego and surrender
hers as much as mine
although mine takes center stage more often

in her vacancy
personality fades into vapor
ceases to break the surface
slumbers for days at a time
before rising to check the calendar
realize her eviction
then shutter eyes again

how her chapters scribe themselves
I can only conjecture
pen what I imagine
and wait to crack her fortune cookie shell for the answer

unbreakable, she bends in the wind
opening her fate like a sail
landing wherever the breeze blows,
spine bent, but unbowed
conviction untamed,
pride untarnished
mouth closed
ears open
arms wide

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Banned Books Week: "How Not to Have to Dry the Dishes" Shel Silverstein

How Not to Have to Dry the Dishes
By Shel Silverstein

If you have to dry the dishes
(Such an awful boring chore)
If you have to dry the dishes
('Stead of going to the store)
If you have to dry the dishes
And you drop one on the floor
Maybe they won't let you
Dry the dishes anymore

In 1985, Shel Silverstein's poetry collection "A Light in the Attic" was challenged at the Cunningham Elementary School in Beloit, Wis., because "How Not to Have to Dry the Dishes" "encourages children to break dishes so they won't have to dry them."



Shel Silverstein was a renowned poet, playwright, illustrator, screenwriter, and songwriter. Best known for his immensely popular children’s books including The Giving Tree, Falling Up, and A Light in the Attic, Silverstein has delighted tens of millions of readers around the world, becoming one of the most popular and best-loved children's authors of all time.

Born in Chicago on September 25, 1930, Sheldon Allan Silverstein grew up to attain an enormous public following, but always preferred to say little about himself. “When I was a kid,” he told Publishers Weekly in 1975, “I would much rather have been a good baseball player or a hit with the girls. But I couldn’t play ball. I couldn’t dance. So I started to draw and to write. I was lucky that I didn’t have anyone to copy, be impressed by. I had developed my own style.”

Silverstein drew his first cartoons for the adult readers of Pacific Stars and Stripes when he was a G.I. in Japan and Korea in the 1950’s. He also learned to play the guitar and to write songs, a talent that would later produce such hits as “A Boy Named Sue” for Johnny Cash and “The Cover of the Rolling Stone” for Dr. Hook.

Shel Silverstein never planned on writing for children – surprising for an artist whose children’s works would soon become available in more than 30 languages around the world. In the early 1960’s Tomi Ungerer, a friend whose own career in children’s books was blossoming, introduced Silverstein to his editor, Harper Collins’ legendary Ursula Nordstrom. That connection led to the publication of The Giving Tree in 1964. The book sold modestly at first, but soon the gentle parable about a boy and the tree that loved him was admired by readers of all ages, recommended by counselors and teachers, and being read aloud from pulpits. Decades after its initial publication, with more than five and a half million copies sold, The Giving Tree holds a permanent spot atop lists of perennial bestsellers.

Where the Sidewalk Ends, Shel Silverstein’s first collection of poems, was published in 1974 and was hailed as an instant classic. Its poems and drawings were applauded for their zany wit, irreverent wisdom, and tender heart. Two more collections followed: A Light in the Attic in 1981, and Falling Up in 1996. Both books dominated bestseller lists for months, with A Light in the Attic shattering all previous records for its 182-week stay on the New York Times list. His poetry books are widely used in schools as a child’s first introduction to poetry.

Silverstein enjoyed a long, successful career as a songwriter with credits that included the popular “Unicorn Song” for the Irish Rovers and “I’m Checking Out” written for the film Postcards from the Edge and nominated for an Academy Award in 1991. In 1984, Silverstein won a Grammy Award for Best Children’s Album for Where the Sidewalk Ends – “recited, sung and shouted” by the author. He performed his own songs on a number of albums and wrote others for friends, including 1998’s Old Dogs with country stars Waylon Jennings, Mel Tillis, Bobby Bare, and Jerry Reed; and his last children’s recording Underwater Land with singer/songwriter and longtime friend Pat Dailey.


Shel Silverstein loved to spend time in Greenwich Village, Key West, Martha’s Vineyard, and Sausalito, California. Up until his death in May 1999, he continued to create plays, songs, poems, stories, and drawings, and most importantly, in Shel’s own words, “have a good time.”

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Banned Books Week: "The Love That Dares To Speak Its Name" by James Kirkup

The Love That Dares To Speak Its Name By James Kirkup
(The gay poem that broke blasphemy laws and led to Whitehouse v. Lemon, a 1976 court case involving the blasphemy law in the United Kingdom.)


As they took him from the cross
I, the centurion, took him in my arms-
the tough lean body
of a man no longer young,
beardless, breathless,
but well hung.

He was still warm.
While they prepared the tomb
I kept guard over him.
His mother and the Magdalen
had gone to fetch clean linen
to shroud his nakedness.

I was alone with him.
For the last time
I kissed his mouth. My tongue
found his, bitter with death.
I licked his wound-
the blood was harsh

For the last time
I laid my lips around the tip
of that great cock, the instrument
of our salvation, our eternal joy.
The shaft, still throbbed, anointed
with death's final ejaculation.

I knew he'd had it off with other men-
with Herod's guards, with Pontius Pilate,
With John the Baptist, with Paul of Tarsus
with foxy Judas, a great kisser, with
the rest of the Twelve, together and apart.
He loved all men, body, soul and spirit - even me.

So now I took off my uniform, and, naked,
lay together with him in his desolation,
caressing every shadow of his cooling flesh,
hugging him and trying to warm him back to life.
Slowly the fire in his thighs went out,
while I grew hotter with unearthly love.

It was the only way I knew to speak our love's proud name,
to tell him of my long devotion, my desire, my dread-
something we had never talked about. My spear, wet with blood,
his dear, broken body all open wounds,
and in each wound his side, his back,
his mouth - I came and came and came

as if each coming was my last.
And then the miracle possessed us.
I felt him enter into me, and fiercely spend
his spirit's final seed within my hole, my soul,
pulse upon pulse, unto the ends of the earth-
he crucified me with him into kingdom come.

This is the passionate and blissful crucifixion
same-sex lovers suffer, patiently and gladly.
They inflict these loving injuries of joy and grace
one upon the other, till they die of lust and pain
within the horny paradise of one another's limbs,
with one voice cry to heaven in a last divine release.

Then lie long together, peacefully entwined, with hope
of resurrection, as we did, on that green hill far away.
But before we rose again, they came and took him from me.
They knew what we had done, but felt
no shame or anger. Rather they were glad for us,
and blessed us, as would he, who loved all men.

And after three long, lonely days, like years,
in which I roamed the gardens of my grief
seeking for him, my one friend who had gone from me,
he rose from sleep, at dawn, and showed himself to me before
all others. And took me to him with the love that now forever dares to speak
its name.


Gay paper guilty of blasphemy (Published 11 July 1977)

The Gay News and its editor Denis Lemon have been found guilty of blasphemous libel in the first case of its kind for more than 50 years.

The case was brought as a private prosecution by the secretary of the National Viewers and Listeners Association, Mary Whitehouse.

She objected to a poem and illustration published in the fortnightly paper last year about a homosexual centurion's love for Christ at the Crucifixion.

After the jury gave their 10-2 guilty verdict at the Old Bailey Whitehouse said: "I'm rejoicing because I saw the possibility of Our Lord being vilified. Now it's been shown that it won't be."

The poem, "The Love that Dares to Speak its Name", by Professor James Kirkup, 54, was distributed to the jury and reporters. However, the judge, Alan King-Hamilton, ordered that it could not be published.

Prosecuting Counsel John Smyth told the court: "it may be said that this is a love poem - it is not, it is a poem about buggery."

The defense argued that far from being "vile" and "perverted" the poem glorified Christ by illustrating that all of mankind could love him.

During the six-day trial columnist and TV personality Bernard Levin and novelist Margaret Drabble testified that the Gay News was a responsible paper that did not encourage illegal sexual practices.

Blasphemous libel is akin to the ecclesiastical charge of heresy - once punishable by death - and in the UK is an offense under common law and the 1697 Blasphemy Act.

The last time a case was brought in the UK was in 1921 when a Mr Gott was sentenced to nine months in prison for publishing a pamphlet that suggested that Christ looked like a clown as he entered Jerusalem.

Represented by playwright and novelist John Mortimer, QC, Mr Lemon, 32, sat silently in the dock as the verdict was given.

The gay poem that broke [1697] blasphemy laws
By Staff Writer, PinkNews.co.uk


The announcement that the government may support moves to strike down blasphemy laws comes 30 years after Denis Lemon was found guilty of committing libel against Christianity, the last prosecution for blasphemy.

He was the editor of the now defunct but iconic UK newspaper Gay News.

Mary Whitehouse, founder of the National Viewers and Listeners Association, (NVLA) announced her intention to sue in December 1976 after she read the poem entitled "The Love That Dares To Speak Its Name" by James Kirkup, published in Gay News.

Denis Lemon was sentenced to nine months suspended imprisonment and fined £500.

Publisher Gay News Limited was fined £1,000.

They were represented by creator of Rumpole of the Bailey and defence counsel at the Oz "conspiracy" trial in 1971, John Mortimer QC, at the Old Bailey.

An appeal against the conviction was rejected by the House of Lords.

It still 'illegal' to publish the poem in the UK.

However, it was published again in two socialist newspapers few days after the original trial the offending poem as a protest against censorship.

It expresses the fictional love of a Roman Centurion for Jesus and describes him having sex with the Christ's crucified body and is reproduced below.

Her indictment submitted in December 1976 against Gay News stated:

"A blasphemous libel concerning the Christian religion, namely an obscene poem and illustration vilifying Christ in his life and in his crucifixion."

Mrs Whitehouse was appointed a CBE in 1980.

The NVLA, now known as mediawatch, still regards their founder as the 'late, great Mary Whitehouse.'

They maintain their objective that the organisation has kept pressure on broadcasting authorities (they no longer monitor the press) to explain standards of 'taste and decency' and that this objective is as relevant today as it was in the 1960s.

John Beyer, director of mediawatch told PinkNews.co.uk last year:

"I think that the prosecution was justified because it was upheld and the appeal was rejected."

He says that with regard to 'that poem.' "The standards for decency still stand."

The fact that the ban rankles sections of society which support gay rights and are against censorship, he says is "irrelevant."

"It has nothing to do with 'rights,' the judicial process was followed and it was found to be a breach of the law. The fact remains that the law has not been repealed – the attitudes may have changed.

"Freedom comes with responsibility otherwise we end up with anarchy. The law of the land applies to everybody."

He refused to express a more personal view on the matter.

"That is irrelevant."

"It is a weakness in the judicial system that the same law cannot be upheld when the poem is re-published in other sections of the media."

The poem can easily be found on the Internet.

The poet, James Kirkup, 89, now lives in Andorra. He continues to work and frequently contributes obituaries to newspapers. [He died May 2009].

Lemon fell ill with an AIDS-related illness and sold Gay News in 1982.

It closed down in 1983. Lemon died in July 1994.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Banned Books Week: "Education for Leisure" by Carol Ann Duffy



Education for Leisure
Carol Ann Duffy

Today I am going to kill something. Anything.
I have had enough of being ignored and today
I am going to play God. It is an ordinary day,
a sort of grey with boredom stirring in the streets.

I squash a fly against the window with my thumb.
We did that at school. Shakespeare. It was in
another language and now the fly is in another language.
I breathe out talent on the glass to write my name.

I am a genius. I could be anything at all, with half
the chance. But today I am going to change the world.
Something’s world. The cat avoids me. The cat
knows I am a genius, and has hidden itself.

I pour the goldfish down the bog. I pull the chain.
I see that it is good. The budgie is panicking.
Once a fortnight, I walk the two miles into town
for signing on. They don’t appreciate my autograph.

There is nothing left to kill. I dial the radio
and tell the man he’s talking to a superstar.
He cuts me off. I get our bread-knife and go out.
The pavements glitter suddenly. I touch your arm.

Top exam board asks schools to destroy book containing knife poem

Britain's biggest exam board has been accused of censorship after it removed a poem containing references to knife crime from the [General Certificate of Secondary Education] syllabus.

Officials at the [Assessment and Qualifications Alliance] board said their request that schools destroy the anthology containing the Carol Ann Duffy poem Education for Leisure had been triggered by concerns in two schools about references to knives. A spokeswoman confirmed the decision had been made in the context of the current spate of knife-related murders.

But poets yesterday condemned the move, saying such "censorship" fundamentally missed the point of the poem, which they said could help children debate the causes of street violence.

The poem starts: "Today I am going to kill something. Anything./I have had enough of being ignored and today/I am going to play God." It describes a youth's yearning for attention and a journey to sign on for the dole, and makes references to the killing of a goldfish. It ends ominously with the youth walking the streets armed with a bread knife.

Duffy, widely considered a front-runner to be the next [British] poet laureate, yesterday declined to comment. But her literary agent, Peter Strauss, said: "It's a pro-education, anti-violence poem written in the mid-1980s when Thatcher was in power and there were rising social problems and crime. It was written as a plea for education. How, 20 years later, it had been turned on itself and presented to mean the opposite I don't know. You can't say that it celebrates knife crime. What it does is the opposite."

Michael Rosen, the children's laureate, said: "By this same logic we would be banning Romeo and Juliet. That's about a group of sexually attractive males strutting round the streets, getting off with girls and stabbing each other.

"Carol Ann is an easy target because she's a modern poet." He added: "Of course we want children to be talking about knife crime and poems like these are a terrific way of helping that happen. Blanket condemnation and censorship of something never works."

A spokeswoman for AQA confirmed there had been three complaints, two referring to knife crime and a third about the description of a goldfish being flushed down the toilet. The first complaint about knives was made in 2004. The second, made in the summer by an exams officer, was then taken up by an MP.

The most recent complaint was made by Lutterworth grammar school's exams invigilator, Pat Schofield, who welcomed the board's decision and said: "I think it is absolutely horrendous - what sort of message is that to give to kids who are reading it as part of their GCSE syllabus?"

The AQA spokeswoman said: "The decision to withdraw the poem was not taken lightly and only after due consideration of the issues involved. We believe the decision underlines the often difficult balance that exists between encouraging and facilitating young people to think critically about difficult but important topics and the need to do this in a way which is sensitive to social issues and public concern."



Poet, playwright and freelance writer Carol Ann Duffy was born on 23 December 1955 in Glasgow and read philosophy at Liverpool University. She is a former editor of the poetry magazine Ambit and is a regular reviewer and broadcaster. She moved from London to Manchester in 1996 and began to lecture in poetry at Manchester Metropolitan University. Her papers were acquired by the Robert W. Woodruff Library of Emory University in 1999, and in October 2000 she was awarded a grant of £75,000 over a five-year period by the National Endowment for Science, Technology and the Arts.

Her adult poetry collections are Standing Female Nude (1985), winner of a Scottish Arts Council Award; Selling Manhattan (1987), which won a Somerset Maugham Award; The Other Country (1990); Mean Time (1993), which won the Whitbread Poetry Award and the Forward Poetry Prize (Best Poetry Collection of the Year); The World's Wife (1999); Feminine Gospels (2002), a celebration of the female condition; and Rapture (2005), winner of the 2005 T. S. Eliot Prize. Her children's poems are collected in New & Collected Poems for Children (2009).

She also writes picture books for children, and these include Underwater Farmyard (2002); Doris the Giant (2004); Moon Zoo (2005); The Tear Thief (2007); and The Princess's Blankets (2009).

Anthologies edited by Carol Ann Duffy include Out of Fashion (2004), in which she creates a vital dialogue between classic and contemporary poets over the two arts of poetry and fashion; Answering Back (2007); and To The Moon: An Anthology of Lunar Poems (2009).

Carol Ann Duffy is also an acclaimed playwright, and has had plays performed at the Liverpool Playhouse and the Almeida Theatre in London. Her plays include Take My Husband (1982), Cavern of Dreams (1984), Little Women, Big Boys (1986) and Loss (1986), a radio play.

She received an Eric Gregory Award in 1984 and a Cholmondeley Award in 1992 from the Society of Authors, the Dylan Thomas Award from the Poetry Society in 1989 and a Lannan Literary Award from the Lannan Foundation (USA) in 1995. She was awarded an OBE in 1995, a CBE in 2001 and became a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature in 1999.

Carol Ann Duffy lives in Manchester and is Creative Director of the Writing School at Manchester Metropolitan University. She became Poet Laureate in 2009, succeeding Andrew Motion.

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Banned Books Week: "Howl" by Allen Ginsberg

Howl
By Allen Ginsberg

For Carl Solomon
I

I saw the best minds of my generation destroyed by madness, starving hysterical naked,
dragging themselves through the negro streets at dawn looking for an angry fix,
angelheaded hipsters burning for the ancient heavenly connection to the starry dynamo in the machinery of night,
who poverty and tatters and hollow-eyed and high sat up smoking in the supernatural darkness of cold-water flats floating across the tops of cities contemplating jazz,
who bared their brains to Heaven under the El and saw Mohammedan angels staggering on tenement roofs illuminated,
who passed through universities with radiant cool eyes hallucinating Arkansas and Blake-light tragedy among the scholars of war,
who were expelled from the academies for crazy & publishing obscene odes on the windows of the skull,
who cowered in unshaven rooms in underwear, burning their money in wastebaskets and listening to the Terror through the wall,
who got busted in their pubic beards returning through Laredo with a belt of marijuana for New York,
who ate fire in paint hotels or drank turpentine in Paradise Alley, death, or purgatoried their torsos night after night
with dreams, with drugs, with waking nightmares, alcohol and cock and endless balls,
incomparable blind streets of shuddering cloud and lightning in the mind leaping toward poles of Canada & Paterson, illuminating all the motionless world of Time between,
Peyote solidities of halls, backyard green tree cemetery dawns, wine drunkenness over the rooftops, storefront boroughs of teahead joyride neon blinking traffic light, sun and moon and tree vibrations in the roaring winter dusks of Brooklyn, ashcan rantings and kind king light of mind,
who chained themselves to subways for the endless ride from Battery to holy Bronx on benzedrine until the noise of wheels and children brought them down shuddering mouth-wracked and battered bleak of brain all drained of brilliance in the drear light of Zoo,
who sank all night in submarine light of Bickford's floated out and sat through the stale beer afternoon in desolate Fugazzi's, listening to the crack of doom on the hydrogen jukebox,
who talked continuously seventy hours from park to pad to bar to Bellevue to museum to the Brooklyn Bridge,
a lost battalion of platonic conversationalists jumping down the stoops off fire escapes off windowsills off Empire State out of the moon,
yacketayakking screaming vomiting whispering facts and memories and anecdotes and eyeball kicks and shocks of hospitals and jails and wars,
whole intellects disgorged in total recall for seven days and nights with brilliant eyes, meat for the Synagogue cast on the pavement,
who vanished into nowhere Zen New Jersey leaving a trail of ambiguous picture postcards of Atlantic City Hall,
suffering Eastern sweats and Tangerian bone-grindings and migraines of China under junk-withdrawal in Newark's bleak furnished room,
who wandered around and around at midnight in the railroad yard wondering where to go, and went, leaving no broken hearts,
who lit cigarettes in boxcars boxcars boxcars racketing through snow toward lonesome farms in grandfather night,
who studied Plotinus Poe St. John of the Cross telepathy and bop kabbalah because the cosmos instinctively vibrated at their feet in Kansas,
who loned it through the streets of Idaho seeking visionary indian angels who were visionary indian angels,
who thought they were only mad when Baltimore gleamed in supernatural ecstasy,
who jumped in limousines with the Chinaman of Oklahoma on the impulse of winter midnight streetlight smalltown rain,
who lounged hungry and lonesome through Houston seeking jazz or sex or soup, and followed the brilliant Spaniard to converse about America and Eternity, a hopeless task, and so took ship to Africa,
who disappeared into the volcanoes of Mexico leaving behind nothing but the shadow of dungarees and the lava and ash of poetry scattered in fireplace Chicago,
who reappeared on the West Coast investigating the FBI in beards and shorts with big pacifist eyes sexy in their dark skin passing out incomprehensible leaflets,
who burned cigarette holes in their arms protesting the narcotic tobacco haze of Capitalism,
who distributed Supercommunist pamphlets in Union Square weeping and undressing while the sirens of Los Alamos wailed them down, and wailed down Wall, and the Staten Island ferry also wailed,
who broke down crying in white gymnasiums naked and trembling before the machinery of other skeletons,
who bit detectives in the neck and shrieked with delight in policecars for committing no crime but their own wild cooking pederasty and intoxication,
who howled on their knees in the subway and were dragged off the roof waving genitals and manuscripts,
who let themselves be fucked in the ass by saintly motorcyclists, and screamed with joy,
who blew and were blown by those human seraphim, the sailors, caresses of Atlantic and Caribbean love,
who balled in the morning in the evenings in rosegardens and the grass of public parks and cemeteries scattering their semen freely to whomever come who may,
who hiccuped endlessly trying to giggle but wound up with a sob behind a partition in a Turkish Bath when the blond & naked angel came to pierce them with a sword,
who lost their loveboys to the three old shrews of fate the one eyed shrew of the heterosexual dollar the one eyed shrew that winks out of the womb and the one eyed shrew that does nothing but sit on her ass and snip the intellectual golden threads of the craftsman's loom,
who copulated ecstatic and insatiate with a bottle of beer a sweetheart a package of cigarettes a candle and fell off the bed, and continued along the floor and down the hall and ended fainting on the wall with a vision of ultimate cunt and come eluding the last gyzym of consciousness,
who sweetened the snatches of a million girls trembling in the sunset, and were red eyed in the morning but prepared to sweeten the snatch of the sunrise, flashing buttocks under barns and naked in the lake,
who went out whoring through Colorado in myriad stolen night-cars, N.C., secret hero of these poems, cocksman and Adonis of Denver—joy to the memory of his innumerable lays of girls in empty lots & diner backyards, moviehouses' rickety rows, on mountaintops in caves or with gaunt waitresses in familiar roadside lonely petticoat upliftings & especially secret gas-station solipsisms of johns, & hometown alleys too,
who faded out in vast sordid movies, were shifted in dreams, woke on a sudden Manhattan, and picked themselves up out of basements hung-over with heartless Tokay and horrors of Third Avenue iron dreams & stumbled to unemployment offices,
who walked all night with their shoes full of blood on the snowbank docks waiting for a door in the East River to open to a room full of steam-heat and opium,
who created great suicidal dramas on the apartment cliff-banks of the Hudson under the wartime blur floodlight of the moon & their heads shall be crowned with laurel in oblivion,
who ate the lamb stew of the imagination or digested the crab at the muddy bottom of the rivers of Bowery,
who wept at the romance of the streets with their pushcarts full of onions and bad music,
who sat in boxes breathing in the darkness under the bridge, and rose up to build harpsichords in their lofts,
who coughed on the sixth floor of Harlem crowned with flame under the tubercular sky surrounded by orange crates of theology,
who scribbled all night rocking and rolling over lofty incantations which in the yellow morning were stanzas of gibberish,
who cooked rotten animals lung heart feet tail borsht & tortillas dreaming of the pure vegetable kingdom,
who plunged themselves under meat trucks looking for an egg,
who threw their watches off the roof to cast their ballot for Eternity outside of Time, & alarm clocks fell on their heads every day for the next decade,
who cut their wrists three times successively unsuccessfully, gave up and were forced to open antique stores where they thought they were growing old and cried,
who were burned alive in their innocent flannel suits on Madison Avenue amid blasts of leaden verse & the tanked-up clatter of the iron regiments of fashion & the nitroglycerine shrieks of the fairies of advertising & the mustard gas of sinister intelligent editors, or were run down by the drunken taxicabs of Absolute Reality,
who jumped off the Brooklyn Bridge this actually happened and walked away unknown and forgotten into the ghostly daze of Chinatown soup alleyways & firetrucks, not even one free beer,
who sang out of their windows in despair, fell out of the subway window, jumped in the filthy Passaic, leaped on negroes, cried all over the street, danced on broken wineglasses barefoot smashed phonograph records of nostalgic European 1930s German jazz finished the whiskey and threw up groaning into the bloody toilet, moans in their ears and the blast of colossal steamwhistles,
who barreled down the highways of the past journeying to each other's hotrod-Golgotha jail-solitude watch or Birmingham jazz incarnation,
who drove crosscountry seventytwo hours to find out if I had a vision or you had a vision or he had a vision to find out Eternity,
who journeyed to Denver, who died in Denver, who came back to Denver & waited in vain, who watched over Denver & brooded & loned in Denver and finally went away to find out the Time, & now Denver is lonesome for her heroes,
who fell on their knees in hopeless cathedrals praying for each other's salvation and light and breasts, until the soul illuminated its hair for a second,
who crashed through their minds in jail waiting for impossible criminals with golden heads and the charm of reality in their hearts who sang sweet blues to Alcatraz,
who retired to Mexico to cultivate a habit, or Rocky Mount to tender Buddha or Tangiers to boys or Southern Pacific to the black locomotive or Harvard to Narcissus to Woodlawn to the daisychain or grave,
who demanded sanity trials accusing the radio of hypnotism & were left with their insanity & their hands & a hung jury,
who threw potato salad at CCNY lecturers on Dadaism and subsequently presented themselves on the granite steps of the madhouse with shaven heads and harlequin speech of suicide, demanding instantaneous lobotomy,
and who were given instead the concrete void of insulin Metrazol electricity hydrotherapy psychotherapy occupational therapy pingpong & amnesia,
who in humorless protest overturned only one symbolic pingpong table, resting briefly in catatonia,
returning years later truly bald except for a wig of blood, and tears and fingers, to the visible madman doom of the wards of the madtowns of the East,
Pilgrim State's Rockland's and Greystone's foetid halls, bickering with the echoes of the soul, rocking and rolling in the midnight solitude-bench dolmen-realms of love, dream of life a nightmare, bodies turned to stone as heavy as the moon,
with mother finally ******, and the last fantastic book flung out of the tenement window, and the last door closed at 4 A.M. and the last telephone slammed at the wall in reply and the last furnished room emptied down to the last piece of mental furniture, a yellow paper rose twisted on a wire hanger in the closet, and even that imaginary, nothing but a hopeful little bit of hallucination—
ah, Carl, while you are not safe I am not safe, and now you're really in the total animal soup of time—
and who therefore ran through the icy streets obsessed with a sudden flash of the alchemy of the use of the ellipsis catalogue a variable measure and the vibrating plane,
who dreamt and made incarnate gaps in Time & Space through images juxtaposed, and trapped the archangel of the soul between 2 visual images and joined the elemental verbs and set the noun and dash of consciousness together jumping with sensation of Pater Omnipotens Aeterna Deus
to recreate the syntax and measure of poor human prose and stand before you speechless and intelligent and shaking with shame, rejected yet confessing out the soul to conform to the rhythm of thought in his naked and endless head,
the madman bum and angel beat in Time, unknown, yet putting down here what might be left to say in time come after death,
and rose reincarnate in the ghostly clothes of jazz in the goldhorn shadow of the band and blew the suffering of America's naked mind for love into an eli eli lamma lamma sabacthani saxophone cry that shivered the cities down to the last radio
with the absolute heart of the poem of life butchered out of their own bodies good to eat a thousand years.


II

What sphinx of cement and aluminum bashed open their skulls and ate up their brains and imagination?
Moloch! Solitude! Filth! Ugliness! Ashcans and unobtainable dollars! Children screaming under the stairways! Boys sobbing in armies! Old men weeping in the parks!
Moloch! Moloch! Nightmare of Moloch! Moloch the loveless! Mental Moloch! Moloch the heavy judger of men!
Moloch the incomprehensible prison! Moloch the crossbone soulless jailhouse and Congress of sorrows! Moloch whose buildings are judgment! Moloch the vast stone of war! Moloch the stunned governments!
Moloch whose mind is pure machinery! Moloch whose blood is running money! Moloch whose fingers are ten armies! Moloch whose breast is a cannibal dynamo! Moloch whose ear is a smoking tomb!
Moloch whose eyes are a thousand blind windows! Moloch whose skyscrapers stand in the long streets like endless Jehovahs! Moloch whose factories dream and croak in the fog! Moloch whose smoke-stacks and antennae crown the cities!
Moloch whose love is endless oil and stone! Moloch whose soul is electricity and banks! Moloch whose poverty is the specter of genius! Moloch whose fate is a cloud of sexless hydrogen! Moloch whose name is the Mind!
Moloch in whom I sit lonely! Moloch in whom I dream Angels! Crazy in Moloch! Cocksucker in Moloch! Lacklove and manless in Moloch!
Moloch who entered my soul early! Moloch in whom I am a consciousness without a body! Moloch who frightened me out of my natural ecstasy! Moloch whom I abandon! Wake up in Moloch! Light streaming out of the sky!
Moloch! Moloch! Robot apartments! invisible suburbs! skeleton treasuries! blind capitals! demonic industries! spectral nations! invincible madhouses! granite cocks! monstrous bombs!
They broke their backs lifting Moloch to Heaven! Pavements, trees, radios, tons! lifting the city to Heaven which exists and is everywhere about us!
Visions! omens! hallucinations! miracles! ecstasies! gone down the American river!
Dreams! adorations! illuminations! religions! the whole boatload of sensitive bullshit!
Breakthroughs! over the river! flips and crucifixions! gone down the flood! Highs! Epiphanies! Despairs! Ten years' animal screams and suicides! Minds! New loves! Mad generation! down on the rocks of Time!
Real holy laughter in the river! They saw it all! the wild eyes! the holy yells! They bade farewell! They jumped off the roof! to solitude! waving! carrying flowers! Down to the river! into the street!


III

Carl Solomon! I'm with you in Rockland
where you're madder than I am
I'm with you in Rockland
where you must feel very strange
I'm with you in Rockland
where you imitate the shade of my mother
I'm with you in Rockland
where you've murdered your twelve secretaries
I'm with you in Rockland
where you laugh at this invisible humor
I'm with you in Rockland
where we are great writers on the same dreadful typewriter
I'm with you in Rockland
where your condition has become serious and is reported on the radio
I'm with you in Rockland
where the faculties of the skull no longer admit the worms of the senses
with you in Rockland
where you drink the tea of the breasts of the spinsters of Utica
I'm with you in Rockland
where you pun on the bodies of your nurses the harpies of the Bronx
I'm with you in Rockland
where you scream in a straightjacket that you're losing the game of the actual pingpong of the abyss
I'm with you in Rockland
where you bang on the catatonic piano the soul is innocent and immortal it should never die ungodly in an armed madhouse
I'm with you in Rockland
where fifty more shocks will never return your soul to its body again from its pilgrimage to a cross in the void
I'm with you in Rockland
where you accuse your doctors of insanity and plot the Hebrew socialist revolution against the fascist national Golgotha
I'm with you in Rockland
where you will split the heavens of Long Island and resurrect your living human Jesus from the superhuman tomb
I'm with you in Rockland
where there are twentyfive thousand mad comrades all together singing the final stanzas of the Internationale
I'm with you in Rockland
where we hug and kiss the United States under our bedsheets the United States that coughs all night and won't let us sleep
I'm with you in Rockland
where we wake up electrified out of the coma by our own souls' airplanes roaring over the roof they've come to drop angelic bombs the hospital illuminates itself imaginary walls collapse O skinny legions run outside O starry-spangled shock of mercy the eternal war is here O victory forget your underwear we're free
I'm with you in Rockland
in my dreams you walk dripping from a sea-journey on the highway across America in tears to the door of my cottage in the Western night

San Francisco, 1955—1956


Banned Books Week: Obscene Odes
Posted by Jenna Krajeski


Out of all banned poetry, perhaps the most notorious, in America at least, is Allen Ginsberg’s “Howl,” and for good reason. The work attracted controversy almost immediately, which culminated in an obscenity trial brought against its publisher, Lawrence Ferlinghetti, and that history is virtually inseparable from the poem, and the poet. This is not to belittle Ginsberg’s artistry. As David Gates wrote in his contribution to “The Poem That Changed America: ‘Howl’ Fifty Years Later,” from 2006:

Banned literary mandarins such as Joyce and Nabokov may simply have wanted to go about their hermetic work unmolested, but Ginsberg was a public poet and a provocateur. “Howl,” for all its affirmations, is a profoundly oppositional poem, and it counts on being opposed.…It’s a radically offensive poem, or used to be—offensive even to received notions of what poetry is, and it needs offended readers whose fear and outrage bring it most fully to life.

Since its publication, “Howl” has hardly left our literary consciousness. Now Gus Van Sant is set to produce a star-studded movie about the trial. But where does this leave the poem itself? Even in 2008, it’s hard to imagine that small black-and-white book being part of an established American curriculum, and not just the occasional revelatory tool of a rebellious teacher. Had it not been for one of the latter, who in high school nudged me toward an anthology of Beat literature, I would not have discovered “Howl” until college.

In 200, on the 50th anniversary of the obscenity trial, a radio broadcast of the poem was halted because of FCC laws. Never mind that the judge ruled, in 1957, that “Howl” was not obscene. It’s depressing that our national discourse moves in baby steps. But perhaps the banning of books is a useful barometer of prejudice. And it’s a sign of our particular time that, barred from the airwaves, the poem found another home, in the most egalitarian place of all: as a podcast on the Internet.

Friday, October 1, 2010

Banned Books Week: "Manifesto," by Ellen Hopkins

"Manifesto"
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,
the red, white and blue corroded
by terrorists, socialists, the sexually
confused. But we are a vast quilt
of patchwork cultures and multi-gendered
identities. You cannot speak for those
whose ancestors braved
different seas.

You say you’re afraid for God,
the living word eroded by Muhammed
and Darwin and Magdalene.
But the omnipotent sculptor of heaven
and earth designed intelligence.
Surely you dare not speak
for the father, who opens
his arms to all.

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.

Banned Books Week adopts author's anti-censorship poem as manifesto

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 canceled 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 canceled 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."

The poem has now been picked up as the manifesto for Banned Books Week, the annual American celebration of the freedom to read, which kicks off on Saturday and which will see hundreds of libraries and bookshops across the country drawing attention to censorship with displays of challenged books and events. According to the American Library Association, there were 513 challenges to books reported in 2008, up from 420 the previous year.

"I most definitely see the problem growing here, with the quite vocal, extreme right-wing power grab going on right now," said Hopkins. "My books speak to hard subject matter. Addiction. Cutting. Thoughts of suicide. Abuse. Sexual abuse. All these issues affect children. Look at the statistics. Closing your eyes won't make these things go away.
"Why not talk about them with your kids, to arm them with knowledge. Open the books with them. Listen to the author speak with them."

Objections from challengers have ranged from upset over positive portrayals of homosexuals to books which were seen as too sexual or too violent, according to Banned Books Week.

In 2008 Khaled Hosseini's novel "The Kite Runner" became one of the top 10 most challenged books, with objectors complaining about its sexual content and offensive language. Philip Pullman's His Dark Materials trilogy was the second most challenged of the year, over its "political viewpoint, religious viewpoint, and violence", while And "Tango Makes Three", a children's story about two male penguins bringing up a chick, or for complainants "a homosexual storyline that has been sugar-coated with cute penguins," topped the list for the third year running.

Hopkins said that she and others like her were "quite willing" to stand up to the "vocal, extreme (wrong) minority". "Torch every book. / Char every page. / Burn every word to ash. / Ideas are incombustible. / And therein lies your real fear," she wrote in her poem Manifesto.

"The First Amendment is alive and well in America and if they don't believe it, they'd better keep both eyes open. Their power is limited, even if they don't know it yet," she said.