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!!”




NaNoWriMo-the preparation begins

It has been months since I have written anything, my most recent being a poem about the men who were involved in the D-Day landings. So when an email from the lovely people from (inter) National Novel Writing Month skipped its way into my inbox this week, encouraging past nano-ers to prepare for another year’s madness- I mean month of glorious writing greatness!- that I thought, why not? I did it a couple of years ago, and loved every second of it.
I wasn’t able to do it last year due to holidaying and bridesmaiding in Australia with my best friends (one of whom emigrated there three years ago).
Through twitter and facebook, I was kept up to date with the latest from the write-ins, online word sprints and other nano-2013-related shenanigans, and I was disappointed that I didn’t have the time to do it all!
So this year, I have cleared my diary, made sure that I do not have any special birthdays/anniversaries/chores to be available for throughout November, and made a conscious decision to go whole-heartedly into 30 full days of WRITING!!!!

Frida Kahlo & The Survivors of Symphysiotomy

Symphy- whatnow? I hear you say!

Some of you may have not heard of Frida Kahlow.

All of you will wonder why I’m putting the two together.

The following link will explain the latter – Beware some graphic descriptions http://uk.news.yahoo.com/just-27-butchered-symphysiotomy-survivors-own-words-175701507.html#TTnHMvm

This link will explain Frida Kahlow a little better http://www.fridakahlo.com/

What you may not know is that one of the handrails on the trolley-bus Frida was riding when the crash happened, ended up exiting her groin.

In 2010-2011, Pascale Petit (http://www.pascalepetit.co.uk) published her fifth collection “What the Water Gave Me – poems after Frida Kahlow,” Poems inspired by Kahlow’s paintings (Petit is a visual artist by background), and often written in Kahlow’s voice – or something similar.

I saw Petit at the Cheltenham Literature Festival 2012, reading from the collection, and explaining some of Kahlow’s background. (It is also the first time I have ever been star-struck. A geeky way I know, but I stood there, having my copy signed and grinning like a loon! That is another story though)

In the collection is a poem called “Remembrance of an Open Wound,” the full poem can and should be read in “What the Water Gave Me” which also gives context, but this poem immediately came to mind when I read about the Symphysiotomy Survivors. Here is a small excerpt:

Neither of us knows
when the petrol tank will explode.
You say I’ve decorated my house
to recreate the accident –
my skeleton wired with fireworks,
my menagerie flinging air about.
…It’s time to pull the handrail out.
I didn’t expect love to feel like this –
you holding me down with your knee,
wrenching the steel rod from my charred body
quickly, kindly, setting me free.
(Pascale Petit, 2010)


Hopefully, out of all this will come good, and changes will happen to women’s health across the world.



Not quite MIA

Hi all,

I thought I’d stop by to ensure you don’t think I’ve gone Missing In Action!

The start of 2014 has just not started out as writing-friendly as I’d hoped. This is mainly down to tiredness and jewellery making. As in, I get home from work, make some jewellery and therefore, I’m too tired to even think about writing.

I realised that, actually, this may be a good thing at the moment.

I was becoming more stressed about NOT writing, it was causing me to not-write even more. So I stopped stressing, and stopped writing for a bit.

I’ve put pen to paper once or twice, nothing full or exactly polished, but it’s words and a semblance of poetry.

Maybe a little later in the year…

Watch this space!


Picture it & write – the long stretch

Here’s a late entry to last week’s picture it and write over on Ermilia http://ermiliablog.wordpress.com/

And Here is the picture prompt


For more information about this picture and the week’s prompt, pop over to http://ermiliablog.wordpress.com/2013/08/25/picture-it-write-15/


The Long Stretch

As soon as my leg had healed after the accident, my friends and family told me to “get back on the bike” or I “never would again and regret it.” Nothing I’d not told myself, like. I knew that never going my usual route to work again (I like the scenic route) would cause all sorts of regrets.

So I got back on my new bike (the old one had an imprint of my leg in the back wheel) and took a leisurely ride down the ever familiar road. That’s when it happened.

My panic attack. The world began to spin. My heart raced and I thought I would hyperventilate. I knew I was veering all over the road – just like the car that hit me, despite me riding off the road to get out of its way – I quickly got off the bike and began walking slowly towards the area I was knocked over. The attack didn’t ease much – the road simply warped and stretched forever in front of me.

back and blogging

Its been about three weeks (or there abouts) since I last posted anything. I have been running up the wall with all sorts of things. A family wedding and a family 21st birthday party within a week of each other hasn’t helped with blogging time, plus, I have been busy with my other creative self and have been making jewellery and beading goodies (see more at beadsbymel.blogspot.co.uk).

I know it’s a few days late, but I want to add my little tribute/obituary to the late great Seamus Heaney. He was one of my great 20th century poet-heroes ever since I read his poetry in school at sixteen. “Half-term break” being one of my favourite poems. The world is a quieter place now, but is a richer place from his influence. I have found a rather fitting tribute sonnet over on Roy Marshall’s (poet) blog, http://roymarshall.wordpress.com/2013/08/30/a-sonnet-for-seamus-heaney/

And to the best British satirist-broadcaster-journalist-reporter of over 60 years, David Frost who died Saturday 31st August http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2408548/Sir-David-Frost-dies-TV-giant-party-host-supreme-thoroughly-good-egg.html?ITO=1490&ns_mchannel=rss&ns_campaign=1490 He did so much, he became a tour-de-force in the media world – most famously bringing Richard Nixon to a rather candid confession on the Watergate Scandal years after he was ousted. So, Sir David Frost who helped to launch (wider known) careers of the likes of Ronnie’s Corbet & Barker and John Cleese to name a few through his satirical sketch show, The Frost Report, all I can say is, Goodbye, Goodnight, RIP.

Picture it and write – memory

A Couple of weeks ago, Ermilia put this picture up for Picture it and Write

by DiggieVitt on Flickr

For more information on this picture and the prompt, please see  http://ermiliablog.wordpress.com/2013/08/11/__picture-it-write-62/

and here is my contribution for this




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He kept running.

 Somehow he had to get the crows away from his sister. The crows had stolen his memories – and most of hers. But there were two memories she kept deep within her.

 He had to make sure they were kept safe.

 One was of their mother; who she was, where she was.

 The other was of his wife and child.


Picture it and write – Shipwrecked

Here is this weeks prompt for the regular Picture it and write over on Ermilia


For more information on this image and prompt, see http://ermiliablog.wordpress.com/2013/08/18/__picture-it-write-63/

And here is my contribution:




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Cerri had been swimming for hours – or was it days – since the shipwreck. A few hours ago she had managed – somehow – to wrap herself in a rope that was attached to a floating piece of old fishing boat that she had come across.


After swimming for a few hours she pulled herself onto that bit of boat to rest.


She had fallen asleep.


Waking, she found herself on dry land. She was face down on a beach. But how? The boat fragment had now disappeared. She didn’t care how. The rope remained around her wrists and arms. She wasn’t going anywhere. She was safe. She could rest again.








Picture it and write – sweet dreams

A couple of weeks ago, Ermilia (http://ermiliablog.wordpress.com) posted the following picture up for Picture it and Write


Click here for the full details http://ermiliablog.wordpress.com/2013/07/21/picture-it-and-write-7/

Well, it took me all that time to think of something to write. I knew I had to because it was such an inspiring picture (and quite possibly, I may write more under this inspiration).

Well, this is what I have initially started with. It’s a little dark and surreal but it is also inspired by my own dreams. Please note, due the theme in this, I suggest this not be read by under-16’s

Sweet Dreams

Dreams float on water currents

Tracking rivers to the source

Travels like backpackers in foreign lands

Resting like former royalty in once grand beds and chambers

Trapped as a sleeping princess

Awaiting Prince Charming

Trudging thigh-high in dank water

Pulling nightmares away

Soothing the distress from

What was witnessed by the owl and the pussycat

Kissing her awake to the sound of

Waterfalls and troubled waters

Then carry her to her own

Satin-covered four-post bed.