Top Lists

4 Banned Poems You Should Read!

Post author and date will be displayed here.

Throughout history writers have been censored for their work for as long as writing has existed. For reasons that could be political, spiritual or racial. While the reasons for their banning may vary, the one thing they had in common was the challenge of popular ideals at the time.

Gwendolyn Brooks ‘We Real Cool’

Gwendolyn Brooks is a Pulitzer Prize winner and has more than twenty books of poetry to her name. She was the first black woman appointed Poet Laureate of the United States. Her poem ‘We Real Cool’ is about a group of school boys playing pool in a pool hall when they should have been at school. The poem was banned in schools in Mississippi and West Virginia in the 70s for the use of the word ‘jazz’, which the school districts suggested had sexual connotations. Brooks has said that the word ‘jazz’ means jazz music. 

However, Brook’s has stated that people having different interpretations of poetry is how poetry should be consumed. In her words ‘poetry is for personal use’. A reader might get a different meaning from the poem then the writer intended but everyone is different, so each reader should get something unique from poetry. 

Nazim Hikmet 

Nazim Hikmet was a Turkish poet and is now considered one of the greatest poets of the twentieth century. However, throughout his life his poetry was not always celebrated in Turkey. For most of his life his work was banned because of his political views. Hikmet was a Marxist and was involved in Communist propaganda activities. He was thrown in jail for 12 years and stripped of his citizenship. Once he was released from jail, he moved to Russia (at the time Soviet Union) and continued his life there. 

Nazim was a master of language and his use of free verse influenced Turkish literature. His poetry abandoned traditional poetic forms and used exaggerated imagery. He became a poet of the people of the Turkish left. But his work was also critically acclaimed by many artists and is now today translated into over 50 languages.  

Carol Anne Duffy – ‘Education for Leisure’

Censorship is not a thing of the past unfortunately. There are still organizations operating today which censor books, plays and poetry. In 2008 a British exam board requested to ban and destroy Carol Anne Duffy’s anthology which contained the poem ‘Education for Leisure’. The concern centered around references to knives and its correlation to the current spate of knife related murders, though the poem was written 20 years prior. When the censorship was announced many writers and poets stated that banning ‘Education for Leisure’ would be missing the poem’s point. The poem was written as a plea for education and as a text in schools, it could help children debate the causes of street violence. 

‘Education for Leisure’ is about a young man who feels he is not understood by the world and feels mistreated.The poem opens with him saying “Today I am going to kill something. Anything.” He wants to take control of his life, “play God”, because he has had enough of being ignored. He considers himself a genius and is instead treated like a delinquent. He is someone looking for a chance, an opportunity. The poem is expressing the anguish of teens under the Margret Thatcher regime. 

Carol Anne Duffy went on to become the Poet Laureate in Britain in 2009, the first woman to be appointed in over 400 years. 

William Shakespeare – Various Plays

Even our beloved Shakespeare, who is considered a literary genius has been banned and censored throughout history. 

Harriet Bowlder and Thomas Bowlder were the first to censor Shakespeare on a large scale. The sister and brother duo decided to create a family friendly version of Shakespeare’s play which they called ‘Family Shakespeare’. They wanted to create an edited version which removed anything immoral or irrelevant (in their eyes), that took away from the genius of William Shakepeare. 

Both ‘The Merchant of Venice’ and ‘Twelfth Night’ have been banned within the United States in the last 90 years but more recently ‘The Tempest’ was banned in schools in Arizona in 2011. It is deemed inappropriate for schools due to the play’s ideas promoting the overthrow of the United States Government and it promotes resentment to a certain race or class of people.
But these issues of censoring Shakespeare are not only on forgien land but in our own home. A bill was proposed in 2020 to ban the teaching of gender fluidity in NSW schools. This could potentially cut plays like ‘Twelfth Night’ from curriculums. The ban could also affect the discussions around gender roles and stereotypes within the classrooms.

Tagged in:

A list of post tags will be displayed here.

Post Grid Block

Click for options.



Close Search