Dawn Colclasure's Blog

Author and poet Dawn Colclasure

Friday, July 29, 2005

Is it censorship or the wrong market?

I don’t advocate censorship. Look at any one of the past issues of American Bard, a magazine I used to edit and publish, and you would know that I don’t censor what I publish. All the same, there comes a time when what is appropriate and what is not is an issue.

Take, for example, my E-zine.

My E-zine is for writing parents, true, but it is ultimately a FAMILY FRIENDLY electronic publication. It doesn’t promote ANYTHING racist, sexually explicit, violent, religious-bashing or pornographic. Sure I’ll run the occasional Christian poem, but I’ll also run a Jewish poem or a Catholic poem. I don’t discriminate against religions and there’s really nothing wrong with someone being allowed to express their religious beliefs.

I bring this up because I recently got a poetry submission for the E-zine. The submitter included this in his E-mail to me: “I believe censorship to be blasphemous.” And I could only take this statement in one way: That his submission contained poems that could very well be censored.

I approached the reading of his submission with an open mind but after I started seeing a bunch of swear words, I knew I couldn’t take it. I knew I would have to reject his submission, though I’m iffy with one poem in this submission because it doesn’t have ANY swear words but it does talk about something controversial. I might take it. It’s a big “might,” really.

But even as I prepare myself for the rejecting part of this job, I’m still wary of his censorship statement.

But the question becomes, am I censoring his work? Or am I just telling him it’s not appropriate for this E-zine?

Of course my mind tells me the latter but, in my heart, I’m dubious of the whole thing. I’m not saying this because I’m willing to publish a poem riddled with foul language just because the submitting author made a comment against censorship, but it’s more of if he has the right to have his poems read.

At this point, I’m reminded of the saying given to new drivers: Driving is not a right, it’s a privilege.

The same can be applied to a writer. Getting published somewhere isn’t your constitutional right, although writing whatever the heck you want to IS. But getting published is NOT your right, it’s a privilege.

I can’t compromise the guidelines I’ve set up for my E-zine just because someone is against censorship. And I happen to state that I won’t publish anything racist, sexually explicit, etc.

This brings another point to mind: Did the submitting writer even READ my guidelines?? (Sadly, a lot of writers don’t read guidelines.) They pretty much spill out that those kinds of poems are wrong for me. Maybe if he took the time to read the guidelines, he’d save himself the rejection.

Reading the guidelines – and maybe even a past issue or two – would help him understand that this was the WRONG market for that kind of material. There may be E-zines or magazines that publish stuff like that, but I don’t. Maybe he just happened to submit his poems to the wrong market.

I can’t let myself feel bad for rejecting his work. I owe it to my readers to keep this E-zine clean because that’s what they have come to expect all along. I’m not going to take the risk of losing subscribers just so a guy can take a stand against censorship. And it’s not really censorship that’s the issue here, but just submitting to the wrong market.


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