For most people, poetry is the one medium where they are entirely free to express themselves. But despite the liberal reputation that their craft has, poets throughout history have faced censorship and rejection based on the topics and themes they choose to write about. The poet laureate of South Caroline, Marjorie Wentworth, may be facing that very issue even in 2015. Read on to find out more about her story!
For years, the inauguration ceremony of the governor of South Carolina has included a reading from the state’s poet laureate. Current Poet Laureate Marjorie Wentworth had participated in this tradition three times already and was scheduled to read an original poem this year at the inauguration of Governor Nikki Haley. But the ceremony officials emailed her before the day of the inauguration, telling her that due to time constraints, her reading would have to be cut out of the program. Wentworth was suspicious about the reasoning she was given; her reading would have added two minutes total to the ceremony and was of course a tradition that South Carolinians had come to love over the years. What other cause for the cut could there be?
In the spirit of her position as state poet laureate, Wentworth had gone to the public to ask them what they thought her inauguration poem should be about. Her Facebook page was filled with posts suggesting potential topics; that and her own desire to acknowledge recent protests in the country over the deaths of unarmed black men at the hands of police officers led her to include a reference to South Carolina’s past as a slave state in her final draft. While the topic is of course a sensitive one, slavery did occur in South Carolina and plays a role in its history and culture. An entire chapter of state history cannot be ignored simply because it makes people uncomfortable. However, the poem was cut from the program, and many believe that it was due to the slavery reference and not a time constraint as officials claimed.
What are your opinions on censorship and poetry? Are there topics that we simply should avoid altogether, or is nothing off limits when it comes to artistic expression? Try writing your own poem on a sensitive or controversial topic to see what kinds of issues you can address through verse. If you like what you write, consider submitting it to our poetry contest and show your work to the world!