“Do We Censor Ourselves in What We Write?”

Supermoon in dec.


Very recently I received an email asking to be ‘friends’ on facebook.  The person was a woman I knew slightly during Y2K.  Our relationship wasn’t close and she wasn’t a literary friend. I have no problem adding friends to fb, but when I told her I was a writer, she asked me if I ‘wrote dark things.’  That question startled me.  Apparently in the ‘60s she had a nervous breakdown and couldn’t tolerate ‘dark things’.

I thought about this.  Hell, yes, I write about ‘dark things’.  “Olsen’s Pond” is an example of dark things.  But further, I am not responsible for the mental stability, comfort, etc. of readers.  I don’t think this woman would want to be ‘friends’ with me on fb according to her standards. And frankly?  I don’t think I would be interested in her.

I have come across this sort of censorship before.  When I published my first book (“A Seasoning of Lust”) there were a few rather comical stories with sex mentioned.  Not full bore sex but a dusting of this issue.  My mother’s opinion was this: “ I  was a pornographer, would always be such, and I would live in the gutter.”  Thanks, mom.  But this is the opinion of a woman who writes little and when she attempts poetry, it’s sentimental mush.

I remember a woman in ERWA (Erotica Readers and Writers Assoc.) who styled everything she wrote after a silly, demented ‘dom’.  He was a hack at this site and frankly, people started to notice his projection of horrendous sadism in his work posted there.  She didn’t notice there was a rumble around his work and just continued to style her work after his.  She was rather stupid.  But it did raise the issue of censorship.  His work was so vile, so misogynistic it outdid deSade.  He projected a sense of power but I did meet him.  He was a small, whiny man, with nothing that would appeal.  He hid behind his words and they were pretty awful.

In that case, he should have censored himself.  But he was insane.


Censorship is something I have struggled with.  Do we do this to ‘please’ potential readers?  Are we afraid our ‘dark things’ in verse and story will isolate ourselves?  Last year I posted “Olsen’s Pond” and some people wrote that they ‘refuses to read this poem because it would depress them’.  Well, they must have read some of it to have that opinion.

I have written a lot of Japanese stories and poems.  Some in the tanka form and most not.  Some readers have no information on shibari, something I studied for a year or so because it interested me.  It was such a strange-seeming, alien practice but I kept reading about it to at least have some clarity before I ditched the whole subject.  People again were horrified that a woman (or man) would allow oneself to be tied with rope.  Some called it barbaric, some called it ‘oppressive’.  I have read one translation of the word ‘shibari’ as ‘tying up the heart’.  This was enough for me to write some comical pieces (Metamorphosis series) and some not so comical works.

So, Hell Yes I write about dark things.  War is Hell, especially on children and perhaps my “Children of Aleppo” is a dark thing but it points to hope. The light doesn’t show unless the darkness appears.  And I hope that I continue to not be swayed by those who are afraid of life.  Those who are need not read my blog.

Below is a Haibun.  “The Punishment”.

While binding me for his pleasure, I uttered displeasing words. With a level glance he considered options and too soon decided my fate. Grabbing my hair, he pulled me to my feet, opened the shoji, and forced me out in an early spring’s snow.  A lavender sky tinted the snow purple, gray in the shadows.  Ordering me to kneel, I obeyed, shivering in the cold morn.  Drawing an early cherry blossom from his sleeve (a gift that was to be mine), he threw it down.  It was his pleasure for me to feel the sharpness of the morning until the soft snow covered the blossom. I, who a month ago would not have cared what I said, now trembled with remorse, feeling more than cold air.  My nakedness revealed my shame.  A crow in the cherry tree laughed scornfully.

When love grows deep and the heart overflows, one submits and becomes a slave.

The snow soon covered the blossom at my knees.  Fearing I would die, he picked me up, carried me to the brazier and tucked me deep amongst his robes, singing softly of the foolish maiden who would die for the last word.

A swirl of blossoms

Caught in the water’s current

Begins the season.


Jane Kohut-Bartels

Copyrighted, 2018

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21 Responses to ““Do We Censor Ourselves in What We Write?””

  1. Frank J. Tassone Says:

    I whole-heartedly agree with your position on censorship. I spend enough effort outrunning the editor in my head. I will therefore write what I write, and others can read it or not. Love the haibun, btw!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Frank J. Tassone Says:

    Reblogged this on Frank J. Tassone and commented:
    #Haiku Happenings #7: Lady Nyo takes a stand against censorship and presents a #haibun!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. ladynyo Says:

    Oh, I am so glad you chimed in, Frank. LOL! I figured this post would either be ignored (the usual when I give into rants) or raise the cackles of some. LOL! Censorship is a tough issue. I like that ‘outrunning the editor in my head’ of yours.
    I am very glad, I appreciate it deeply that you read and understood that haibun. I posted it on a site and I got all sorts of grief! Mostly from men. Saying they weren’t sadists and would never do that to a woman. Well, they obviously know nothing about the Japanese practice of shibari, and that is fine. The world is broad, and I think some of us (you, too, Frank) want to know about that broadness. I was almost afraid of posting that haibun for the same reasons of last year…lol…but I pulled up my ‘big girl’ pants and went for it.

    This issue of censorship, (self and otherwise) certainly is an issue, but we as poets, writers have to allow ourselves the freedom to think and create. There are many small minded people out there that will shun us for what we write, but hopefully other poets will not. But then again….their is a wide spectrum out there considering ‘morals’. Thank you, Frank. Poets need courage and to show courage.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. ladynyo Says:

    Thank you, Frank. You are one of the courageous ones!~

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Frank J. Tassone Says:

    Thank you, Jane!


  6. Frank J. Tassone Says:

    My pleasure, Jane! There’s a reason Plato kicked the poets out of his republic. If we’re living our vocation authentically, then we’re causing trouble!

    Liked by 1 person

  7. ladynyo Says:

    LOL! That’s a good one. I had a ‘Plato moment’ in my (unpublished) “Devil’s Revenge” where Madame Gormosy (a trans sexual demon of lust) says to a character: “When you see the mark of Plato on a forehead, look for the cloven hoof below.” LOL! Not quite what you were referring to, but maybe so. And we poets should continue to keep making trouble! And that raised another issue of what is the point of being a poet? And what is the point of art?

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Frank J. Tassone Says:

    The point of being a poet? and of Art? Deep questions. My unreflective answer: to walk the Way, be a fool for the Truth, and join in Life’s important work: comfort the afflicted, afflict the comfortable! LOL!

    Liked by 1 person

  9. ladynyo Says:

    Oh, I love that! Comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable. More, please!

    Liked by 1 person

  10. kanzensakura Says:

    Oh and all these people who write of “triggers” and such nonsense. I am not responsible either for your state of mind, state of sobriety, state of sexuality. the reader is responsible. Plain and simple. I totally agree Jane. and I love the haibun. It doesn’t trigger anything in me. I am also glad you did not preface it with “mature content” or such stuff. People are supposedly smart. Let them read that that way.

    Liked by 1 person

  11. kanzensakura Says:

    Thanks for reblogging Frank!

    Liked by 1 person

  12. ladynyo Says:

    LOL! One, I respect your opinion. And I am glad that we see ‘eye to eye’. I was abit taken back by this ‘you don’t write dark things, do you?” LOL!

    Well, life can be dark and it is at times and that is also where the creative voice lives. And I agree with you, Toni, that we are not responsible for others lives…..we have our own to patrol. LOL! Yeah, these trigger happy people. I remember a meeting in the Quaker Meeting here in Atlanta, years ago, and people would introduce themselves by ‘neurosis;’ It took me a while to learn their names. LOL!

    Yeah, the practice of shibari is not the same as bondage in this country…there is an aesthetic behind it that is very Japanese….and comes from the military of early medieval Japan. This issue of how many knots or even rope was a class and status thing. But people don’t know this necessarily. And so glad you loved the haibun. That one got me into trouble on a few sites. LOL! But so it goes. Thank you, Toni.


  13. kanzensakura Says:

    I know Subaru and was intrigued by your accurate recounting of it. Duh. Most folks just see “bondage” and that is it.


  14. ladynyo Says:

    Well, people get shibari and bdsm crap confused. It’s pretty normal for this to happen as the practice of shibari is not common in this country. And you are so right….I’ve had educated people proclaim that this was ‘offensive’ to humanity. Thanks, Toni. Even today, the Japanese police carry a 6 inch piece of rope within their sleeves or uniform but it’s just a token. I was intrigued that this ‘tying up of a criminal’ was so class oriented. If you were a person of some standing, you didn’t get tied at all.


  15. katiemiafrederick Says:

    SMiLes foR iT iS
    TruE ThaT
    CreaTiViTY iS
    No Target Audience as
    tHeRE iS A Science oF
    Group thiNk
    An Art of Free
    A Division is
    often iN
    buy and
    seLL no matter
    wHat Form oF
    that comes
    or last..
    iN Art EsSeNcE
    thaT fLieS oR Lands..:)


  16. ladynyo Says:

    thank you, katiemiafrederick.

    Liked by 1 person

  17. katiemiafrederick Says:



  18. Frank Hubeny Says:

    I censor myself severely and I make many revisions. The effect has to be just right and often it isn’t. The text has to be clear and short if it is prose and the meter has to work naturally if it is poetry.

    I’ve read Olsen’s Pond, the shibari series and A Seasoning of Lust. They were all well done and worth the effort you must have taken to get them right.

    Liked by 1 person

  19. ladynyo Says:

    LOL! Well, Frank, those three works or series ….were mostly hit and miss. Now? I wish I had censored myself better. At least gone in the direction of heavy editing.
    You are so right about our work. Poetry is especially prone to misdirection or a failing. At least for me. I think sometimes we start out to say one thing in our prose or poetry and end up totally in another region. LOL! I know I do. Olsen’s Pond was an earliest piece of poetry, only maybe 10 years old now, (I haven’t been a poet long…) but it was straight from the hip. Childhood memories or experiences. Shibari Series is probably the most unliked and misunderstood piece of work I have ever done. LOL! It was about transformation and many refused to read this series because they thought it was oppressive towards women. But that is exactly the point. Transformation is necessary in most lives. And it ain’t easy. It’s a lifetime project. But I certainly appreciate a person, a reader like you, Frank, who goes deeply into the verse, etc. and pulls out nuances the author (me) never realized was in there! I always have said that i learn more from the responses, reactions of readers to my verse than I could have ever thought about. Readers in many ways complete, and reform a lot of my writing. And I believe that to be a good thing.

    Meter has to work naturally if it is to be poetry. I beleive that is the heart of it all. After all, poetry was spoken, declaimed and I would think that meter was very important to the performer and the listeners. As for prose, I have learned more than I thought I could ever by reading tanka and other Japanese forms. The precise nature, the brevity yet profound message within these types of writings certainly curtail my natural bend for verboseness! LOL! Thank you,, Frank. I always learn so much more from your comments.

    Liked by 1 person

  20. Frank Hubeny Says:

    Your Shibari series with the metamorphoses going on from piece to piece is what stays in my mind and I read them almost a year ago. It reminds me of Ovid. I didn’t notice a gender issue when reading it, but then I wasn’t looking for that as much as the amazement of the transformations. They seemed real and they could happen to anyone.

    Liked by 1 person

  21. ladynyo Says:

    LOL! Yeah, and that is the scary part, Frank! LOL! Very few people have seriously read that series and I don’t think I could do it again. Ever! It was a product of a time where I actually attempts some practice of shibari, without falling into bondage, etc. LOL! It was a tight rope walk to say the least!
    Someone who did read it said it was haunting and he remembered it much the same as you have. That whole series surprises me now, because the transformations came so fast, one after the other that the story wrote itself.”

    High praise, that Ovid! And I love Ovid but haven’t read him in years. What I loved so much of Ovid was it was as if he had stepped off the page and was talking in your living room to you. I always have felt he was one of the true ‘humane’ poets of that era…and the easiest to read. Thanks, Frank.

    Liked by 1 person

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