If you write poetry, you may think you’re off the hook. You might assume you don’t have to worry about your work being banned and that you can hide potential problematic messages behind beautiful language. Well, think again.
Shel Silverstein, the world’s most famous children’s poetry author, had his book, A Light in the Attic banned and challenged several times. It was first banned in a Florida school in 1993 because adults thought it promoted, and even encouraged, disobedience, violence, suicide, Satan and cannibalism.
Parents and teachers worried that one poem in the book called “Kidnapped” was too scary and intense for their children to be reading about, especially in school. They thought the image of the child blindfolded and tied to a chair with ropes and chains would prevent their children from sleeping at night.
HOW NOT TO DRY THE DISHES
Others thought the poem, “How Not to Have to Dry the Dishes,” sent a bad message to young children. Parents felt it encouraged them to slack off and come up with excuses to get out of doing their chores. Many children are already reluctant to wash the dishes, so it’s understandable how them reading a poem like this in school could be concerning for their parents.
mONSTERS IVE MET
The piece “Monsters I’ve Met” caused outbursts among parents as well. Those who weren’t religious wanted to shield their children from the topic of Satan and “Monsters I’ve Met” did the opposite of that. Since the book was being read in schools, the parents weren’t aware of what their children were learning until the kids came home and told them about it.
liTTLE ABIGAL AND THE Beautiful Pony
“Little Abigail and the Beautiful Pony” was another poem from A Light in The Attic that was challenged because of Abigail’s death at the end. In the poem Abigail is spoiled and she dies after her parents refuse to buy her a pony. Parents think that the poem sends a negative message to children, telling them that their life might as well be over if they don’t get something they want.
No matter what you write, someone will always find a problem with it. You’ll never make everyone happy, but as long as you enjoy what you’re writing and aren’t being discriminatory or harmful, you’ll be just fine.