Ramblings on banned books

I’ve got to thank/blame Book Riot for this post.

Over the past fortnight, I have been catching up with a HUGE backlog of podcasts I have been meaning to listen to for months. I listen to them in my car on my way home from work, which takes about 30 minutes. So one podcast can take a couple of evenings to finish. The latest in these catch-ups is from Book Riot. It is from last year, and it briefly mentions parents in Florida requesting books to be pulled from their children’s school because of the promotion of a religion not Christian.

And I realised that there are a fair few Book Riot podcasts that at least once, discuss the fact that parents have requested a book to be banned.

Now, I’m a Brit. I live in the UK, and I suppose I have a sheltered view on these things – but really? Parents getting books banned in schools? I have never ever known that to happen here, not like that anyway.

I would not even expect it.

You don’t want your child to be exposed to a particular book? Request the child to be removed from that particular class, into one where there is a book you are happy for them to read/be exposed to. Simple. Don’t go badgering the already pressured/stressed/under-appreciated/authority-robbed teachers!

Now, the whole issue of books being banned is one I am fascinated by. So many times it has been said that words are powerful, and that books are powerful. It’s true.

I had a very brief and totally not cross referenced or verified look at general book banning across the world, although all of the books I will talk about here are English language. With the exception of one or two, almost all at some point have probably been banned in the USA, UK & Ireland and Australasia in some form or another. Here is a link to Airship with an interesting article on books that remain banned or restricted.

I will begin with The Bible. I am a committed Christian, so it is an obvious one for me. It offends basically everyone: Jesus’ teachings, life, death and resurrection is too radical for people to accept, believe – whatever you want to call it. Illegal in many nations, and sometimes certain translations have been banned!

It got me thinking about Shakespeare & his plays. My breadth of knowledge is limited to Romeo & Juliet, Midsummer Night’s Dream, snippets of Much Ado About Nothing and Taming Of The Shrew. Despite this I know of the following: There is a sex scene, several rather nasty deaths and a bit of swearing in Romeo & Juliet; magic potions, lotions, fairies, a man-donkey and a variety of wrong-partner shenanigans, and a little bit of sweariness; and Hamlet has a power-mad uncle who kills his own brother to take kingship, and his sister-in-law as wife. There’s fighting, treachery and is really quite a dark tale. Yet these are accepted as classics. Shakespeare was a master wordsmith (the English Language wouldn’t exist in the same way without him making stuff up). He has rarely been banned (although these links show that he has in the past!)

I don’t like swearing and foul language. I believe it shows a lack of imagination, occasionally a lack of education and possibly a lack of reading/listening. Instead of banning books because of foul language, use it as a tool to discuss why is it the this language is used. Ask yourself if the book is a reflection on the current social and economic  culture of our times or is the social and economic culture a reflection of what we read? Teach your children that swearing isn’t generally acceptable especially at home (if that’s what you object to), demonstrate to them ways of expression that does not involve swearing.

Use books as tools, as reference points, as knowledge and power.


So, ramblings stopped.

Here are a few of my banned-book favourites (or favourite reason for banning), not necessarily in order…

  1. Fahrenheit 451: A book about book-banning (“Fahrenheit 451, the temperature at which books burn”) was banned for questionable language, and issues surrounding censorship, religion & repression. Having read the book myself, I can’t say that the language was particularly questionable – and talk about ironic! Link: Stylist & banned books week website
  2. Black Beauty: A rather bittersweet tale of cruelty and kindness, but it was banned in Apartheid South Africa because of it’s title. ‘nough said. Stylist again
  3. The Diary of Anne Frank: well, this has been banned in a few places for very different reasons including it being “depressing” and for it portraying Jews positively. Links: TelegraphStylist plus B&N
  4. Animal Farm: As well as being banned for years in many Soviet-controlled countries for the obvious political undertones of the novella, it has also been banned in other countries because it has talking pigs. Yes, talking pigs. (You can get some info about this off good ol’ Wiki, but it is a bit sketchy)

Here’s one more, just because it’s a bit daft for being “banned” and amused me whilst looking all this up: Where’s Waldo , some keen eyed book ban-ner found that on one page, there was some flesh showing from the boob-age area of one of the little illustrated people (I’m guessing they sorted this out for the UK release!)

Finally one that just didn’t bother me: John Steinbeck’s Grapes of Wrath has been banned for all sorts of reasons. The reason I’m not bothered? I read “Of Mice and Men” in school for my GCSE’s I hated every millimetre of that book, I could not find anything so boring as that book. So much so I have refused to read anything by Mr Steinbeck since. It is interesting though why it was banned.

So there are my ramblings for the time being. I’ve not done this to offend people, and if I have, it has not been out of malice. Writers throughout centuries have been there to make people think, to look internally at themselves and to question their surroundings & possibly communities and collective beliefs (think:Charles Dickens).

I would love to know if anyone out there knows of other reasons that books have been banned for – the more obscure/obtuse/downright odd the better – and where. Has it simply been the author, the ideas contained, the simple fact that there is a talking animal in it? Let me know. I will attempt to add another related post with some of my faves!



How re-subscribing has helped me write again

Okay, so it’s not just a new subscription (or, more accurately, a return to a subscription) that has helped me to write again. Lots of things have contributed, including a change in career & working hours, which has given me enough “head space” to read more. I took the decision to take another look at an old favourite, Mslexia magazine.

I’m glad I did; a brand new design with exciting content to match, writing prompts, opportunities and inspiring interviews. I had previously fell out of love with Mslexia because it had become a bit too feminist-socialist for my liking*.

So the new-look magazine has all sorts of writing prompts, both narrative fiction & non-fiction, flash fiction, poetry and more. One section of poetry was about formal verse, in particular, canzone, villanelle and sestina forms.

I love villanelle poems. I love the form and how so many poets have used them wittily to get their point across, or simply to entertain. (Link: an old post on villanelle poems)

A sestina poem was discussed in the magazine, and used as a writing prompt. The ever elusive “Regeneration” poem I have never seemed to fully perfect came running into my mind. So yet another re-write, or more accurately, a reworking of my original poem began:


These buildings were beautiful once
Still are, in a way
Lost in regenerative ideals
Apathy and contempt,
Forsaken, forgotten
left to rot and decay

Facades crumble with decay –
bricks and mortar once
steadfast, sniffed at with contempt
permissive planning ideals
left alone, forgotten
as Progress tried to carve its way

History and sentiment stand in the way
And gradings only help to further decay
these heartlands of deprivation, driving contempt
for districts once
grand and well-heeled. Ideals
of modernity packing old memories into forgotten

dusty boxes in rooms in forgotten
annals of office or apartment blocks that once
were a decay
in the mouth of a city already treated with contempt
as The Armpit of The North, a dirty hole to be hidden away
after decades of pursuing different ideals

too radical for the politicians, whose unforgotten ideals
once tough as iron now burn with the contempt of the The New Way
Regeneration is over; dig out the decay, plaster the cavity in paint


It’s still a bit clunky in parts, and I will work on that, but I think sestina poems might be my new poetry-crush!




*Now don’t read this wrong. I am a woman. I do not believe that I can only be “completed’ by a man (and yes, I am heterosexual), but neither do I buy into the opposite, the, “we must do everything by ourselves, forget men – in fact hate them all” Germaine Grier kind of feminism that has plagued women’s rights and women’s issues for decades.

I am a woman who believes that I can do anything through God who created me, and by Jesus’ death and resurrection. 

I also believe that we can all be feminists. Male and female. It’s a matter of perspective. That is what Mslexia has done so well in their re-design. They’ve shifted perspective – they are still feminists, but less “we hate men” and more “we can do this – who’s with us ladies!!”




Deadlines (or how this year is running out!)

Last August my cousin and his girlfriend got engaged (ya!). They have booked the wedding for September this year. 

A few months ago they asked me to do a reading – an absolute honor – and asked if I could write a poem for them. I said yes…

…then left it alone for AGES…

I wrote a line or two. Left it alone.

And realised that I haven’t read anything to influence or inspire me…I have 3 months to write a polished piece.

How I write is quite loose. I write a piece, either story or poem, leave it for a couple of weeks, review, re-write and repeat. I don’t have much time to do this. 

So I got out my anthology books with poetry about everything from apples to zoo keepers and everything inbetween and got to reading.

I’ve managed to get some inspiration from The Bard (Kiss Me Kate is right – you do have to brush up your Shakespear!) et al, but I have to get my head down and write!!!

I’m back – and fully writerly revived

Its amazing what a few days away can do for you, and what catching up on 6 weeks of blog-reading can do too!

I’m going to be re-blogging a couple of articles that caught my eye, from Kristin Lamb (http://warriorwriters.wordpress.com). I thought I would share here, why I am doing so.

Article: Take Your Career to the Next Level–Getting Pruned http://warriorwriters.wordpress.com/2013/08/07/take-your-career-to-the-next-level-getting-pruned/

It’s probably a couple of years ago when I last discussed pruning in my writing, and my poetry. It’s still something I struggle to do, as I never feel I am pruning enough. Kristin’s insights and advice in this blog-post does well to help with this process.

Article:  Learning to Drop the Donkey–Is Perfectionism Killing Your Career? http://warriorwriters.wordpress.com/2013/08/02/learning-to-drop-the-donkey-is-perfectionism-killing-your-career-2/

In my mind this is a great follow on article, despite it being written earlier than the pruning article. If you remember my article about the disappearing floor, and the struggle to get rid of that novella that never seemed to get very far even after 14000 words, you’ll understand why I like this article.

I am also reminded of a phrase used in the UK “Why don’t you just drop the DEAD donkey?” This is (as far as I’m aware) directly from a British comedy series called “Drop The Dead Donkey” which was based in and around the office of a small-channel TV news station and the not-so-great journalists who worked there. It was a team made up of dysfunctional, unambitious, often lazy people who would try anything to look good. One episode I remember is when one of the journo’s Damien, has made a report from some “war-torn” town. He interviews an older lady, who speaks no English. The final report is aired – with subtitles translating the “hardship and heartbreak” of her living in this town. The cleaner then comes in and translates it properly for the rest of the team – it turns out that the lady has been paid to come on camera! It is somewhere in the You Tube archives of channel 4 on demand. I’ve tried to search for it, but there was a lot of the show made.

Anyway, so why this slightly random link to a TV show? I realised whilst reading Kristin’s column that sometimes we as writers are the dead donkey to our writing. This could be for a number of reasons. For me, and for many years, it was a lack of self belief and confidence. I never expected my work to be read, or to be good enough to be read – and guess what? I delivered just that.

The dead donkey is, in some respects, the perpetual lie that has been told to us over and over again, either by ourselves, or by others, or both, that we begin to believe, and the fruits we produce is a direct result from this. Hence a need to be pruned. Prune out that old wood that hasn’t produced any edible fruit in years. Take out the trusses of tomatoes that are the smallest to enable all the nutrients to go to the bigger, stronger tomatoes (we’re growing tomatoes in the garden – can’t you tell?). What’s your dead donkey? What needs pruning in your writing life?

That Friday Feeling

The poems are chosen.
The placement decided.
The relevant people seen.
The date is set. Put 22nd September in your diaries!

For one month, my work can be seen at Waterstone’s bookstore Liverpool One.
I cannot explain how excited this makes me! I actually wanted to go up to random people in the centre and tell them I will be on display at Waterstone’s. I am not that kind of person.
So, if you’re up this way, stop by, take a look, buy a book or two and stop the monstrous cheapo online giants from ruining our high street!
Plus, you will be able to read the pieces that didn’t make the display right here on the blog from next week!
Until then, happy writing and happy Friday!

Finally the end is now

Well, today I received my final evaluation/feedbackk from my tutor from my distance course with the OCA.

It had some wonderful comments and affirmed in me my thought processes when I wrote each piece.

I kinda feel sad now that it’s all over, but happy that I now have more tools to go in my poetic toolbox (along with the dictionaries and thesaurus’, pens and paper). I’ve been at a loss as to what to put in this blog after the end of the course.

Maybe I’ll just put down my slightly random thoughts on the whole poetic journey, the background – and maybe a few poem sketches/rough drafts?

Who knows – watch this space

Introducing a new page – heading photo’s


The old photograph, Bee a Flower was originally taken by my dad, who is on his way to being an amateur photographer. I will try to add some of my favourite photo’s of his, over the coming months.

The current picture (seagulls on posts), is called MINE! and was a snap I took in 2011 in Chester Zoo. The full picture is above

Grab a cuppa – I’ll bring you up to date with what’s going on

For the 30 days of November, I have been out of the social networking, blogging, poetry world.

Why is that? I was taking part in National Novel Writing Month, along with hundreds of thousands of people around the world. There were also a fair few from my home in Liverpool, UK.

NaNoWriMo, as it is more commonly known, is 30 days of writerly abandon. The aim is to write 50,000 words (or more) by November 30th. This was my first year and only managed the get 17k and I hope I continue with this in the New Year

What does this have to do with poetry? On the face of it, nothing whatsoever

However, I learned lessons, which I will apply to poetry writing.

1)      Don’t edit immediately: This may be an obvious thing to say, but is something very difficult to do. NaNoWriMo’s mantra is: Don’t edit, Don’t delete. Both these should be done later. It is better to put down what you feel you want to say or need to say first, including all the repetitions, poor (or over) use of adjectives, nouns and verbs. Anything you do want to delete, just move it to a “trashy bits” folder somewhere, park it up and forget about it until you next need some inspiration (or, more often than not, are in need of a two headed, yellow bug-eyed prince charming who owns a thoroughbred Blue-Green Dragon that puffs out large quantities of bright pink smoke). You may never require any of the “deleted scenes,” but you will regret it if you need something that you previously deleted from existence.

2)      All storywriters should at some point, write a poem or two. This followed a conversation I had with a fellow “NaNo-er” and my only appearance at one of the specially organised “NaNo Write-In’s.” I’ll skip all the particulars, the what’s and wherefore’s, concentrating on the Why’s? Put simplistically, poets need to be precise; every word used must carry not only its own weight, but also the weight of the line. Poets are aware of the timing, the rhythm, the sound of each piece they create. Poems should make an impact on the reader – create a connection. Storywriters and storytellers should take heed of the painting of the poem, not just the subject matter.

3)      All poets should in turn, write a story (short or long). This enables context and voice to be explored at a different level and different, less restricting way.

4)      (An important one for me) When you tell people you write poetry, their eyes do not glaze over. Okay, this may be only true to other writers, but this was an amazing encouragement for me. In fact, my fellow NaNo-ers often sent me info and links on good, descriptive poetry when I was stuck at various different times trying to describe mundane things in an original way. It introduced me to poets I had never known before.

See: http://www.poetrylibrary.edu.au/poets/murray-les/homage-to-the-launching-place-0574004

(Thanks to HornbeamUK for that one – It’s helped immensely)

I’m now ready to start again with the half written poems I had prior to beginning NaNoWriMo11, putting into practice what I have learned (I think 2 & 3 are already ticked off the list).


P.S. Big hint to anyone living in the Liverpool area: If you are part of, or are starting, a writing group, or indeed just want to get together with other writers, please leave me a message here or on twitter (@poets_hide). I would love to join you at some point (providing it is not mid-week).

And the words just keep repeating – the beginning of the end?

Sorry folks, the reflection hasn’t happened yet, it will by
the end of November – I promise.

Some new ideas and subsequent scribbling has commenced. Much
of it is in completely random orders and it is taking time to even get the
though processes running in a (generally) straight line.

I’ve have had three old poems which I had left as “bottom
drawer” fodder begin to run around in the creative spaces of my brain again.
This exercising (or should that be exorcising?!) of words has had me wondering
why I didn’t think they were working.

Here’s an excerpt from one poem “Kennie”

These buildings were beautiful once

Most still are, in a way.

Forsaken and forgotten, left to rot and


Halted regeneration, empty, shut-up houses;

No money, or no hope?

These buildings were beautiful once

Forsaken and forgotten, left to rot and

I wrote it as the ‘bones’ of a villanelle, but it never
seemed to work. I wracked my brain as to why it didn’t. I’ve wrote and re-wrote
this about 8 times now and still I couldn’t get it to work.

Then last week, it hit me. The reason it wasn’t working was
that it should not be a villanelle. I want to convey too much to confine it to
a set rhyme and meter.

Don’t get me wrong. I love villanelles, I love how they
work, their sound and shape. This poem did not, and would not mould to the shape
I insisted on beating.

“Kennie” is a
Liverpudlian term for one of the Liverpool districts, Kensington. It has been
subject to many years of poverty and latterly, regeneration. This is a slow
process (it is ongoing).

Another reason why the poem stopped working was that I saw
more of those shut up houses in other areas, looking more stricken than a lot
of those in Kensington, which affected what I actually wanted to say.

Another poem, “Mist on the Mersey” also kept popping into my
thoughts. Here’s an excerpt

Mist on the Mersey

Clears as the rain subsides

Lifting to reveal

A shell of Cammel Lairds;

In remembrance of past glory […]

[and] beat out a rhythm in synchronicity

With community spirit that protects

This community’s heart.

Yet buildings go and buildings come […]

Replacing the heart with

Inferior parts unable to mimic the familiar

See a familiarity? Yup, so did I. This is a poem about the
overhaul that Liverpool went through in preparation for Capital of Culture
2008, and, to a certain extent, is still going through (the newly opened NMGM
Museum of Liverpool Life should have been open in time for CoC08, especially as
the “old” one was packed up and sent into storage in 2006). I wanted (and still
want) to express this somehow.

I think I may need to look up Epic poetry. Any ideas?

And in the end, it all began – like this!

I’ve not posted anything on the blog for a good couple of months. Apologies to any of you who have subscribed.

I’ve had quite a dry patch of creativity amongst other things, a result of many factors (tiredness being one) and this was reflected in the poems I submitted for my penultimate assignment.

I’ve received my feedback from my tutor, and I will post a reflection in the coming days.

Although I’ve not had a sudden creative “spurt,” I have managed to put ink to paper and scribbled a few lines/words/observations that are the basis for longer pieces. I have also managed to write story that I have submitted to the Mills and Boon New Voices 2011 Competition. Link to firt chapter entry here: http://www.romanceisnotdead.com/Entries/572-Her-Ever-Faithful-Confidante

This has helped me to focus on my creative writing (both stories and poetry) in slightly different ways to how I have been doing. Now I feel freer to jot down my thoughts at the
most random times, which is always when they occur (add to that inconvenient –
like sleeping!!).

Now I’m hurtling towards my final assignment – Redrafting, editing and final submission. It’s a scary road ahead, but I’m sure it will be interesting.
Stay tuned.