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Reflections of a working writer and reader



Why ban poetry?

“If I keep listening to it, I won’t finish the revolution.”
Lenin, regarding Beethoven’s “Appassionata” Sonata

Inspired by an article from Frederick Smock and a viewing of the German film “The Lives Of Others,” Robert Peake considers what it is that makes tyrants and warmongers silence the voices of poets and other artists.

“The U.S. Treasury Department – which, among other things, handles cases of treason – recently warned American publishers against translating poetry from Iran. Such translations, they avowed, would be considered ‘trading with the enemy,’ and would be punishable by fines and jail time.”

Peake, in this quiet and thoughtful piece, argues for poetry and compassion and against demonization and propaganda. He reminds us why poetry matters now.

3 Responses to “Why ban poetry?”

  1. Thanks very much for the link, John. Certainly a relevant topic on both sides of the pond.

    I left the theatre “quiet and thoughtful” and wandered down to the boardwalk with Val to take in the Pacific at sunset. Surreal, to say the least, to be back in California having spent two-and-a-half hours in Cold War East Berlin. For some, 1984 really was like 1984. But I have yet to see a reviewer relate this masterpiece to our times. So I felt a certain obligation to that quiet but persistent thought.

    Rarely have I been so deeply affected by a film.

    jb says: I can’t wait to see it, Robert. It was good you called by to say hello.

  2. Jerry says:

    From a Canadian Perspective we had a Prime Minister who banned the works of Plato and Darwin along with Lenin and Marx following the Kerensky revolution. During the Winnipeg General Strike in 1919 he told his Minister of Labour to arrest the leaders of the strike despite the fact that the weren’t violating any law, he told the Minister they’d make a law up afterwards to justify the governments actions. What he wanted was the leaders to stop talking.
    Words have power, it’s why prophets are killed by those who don’t like what they’re prophesying, the power is the power to humanize, and you can’t hate a human as easily as you can hate an abstraction.
    Iran is an abstraction, an Iranian poem is a glimpse of Iranian humanity.

    jb says: Thanks, Jerry. We knew that, but it can’t be repeated too many times.

  3. Jerry says:

    Even still I won’t repeat it just now.

    jb says: Words have power. We forget how much.