In the Houghlin/Mifflin, on-line dictionary censorship is: the act, process, or practicing of censoring.
So what is censoring? From the same on-line dictionary, censoring is: A person authorized to examine books, films, or other material and to remove or suppress what is considered morally, politically, or otherwise objectionable.
Everything in life, as we know it, has limits, censoring or censorship defines some of these limits. Since Biblical times humankind has been censored. Whether you believe in the Bible or not, its word has censored humankind actions for over two thousand years. I'm not writing about whether one subscribes to the idea that the Bible is God's word I am however, pointing out that these words are and have been an influence on what man-kind believes is right or wrong which, in a sense, is scriptural censorship over everyday human action/behavior towards one another.
Here in the United States the constitution could also be considered a text of censorship i.e., Amendment VII-- In suits at common law, where the value in controversy shall exceed twenty dollars, the right of trial by jury shall be preserved, and no fact tried by a jury, shall be otherwise reexamined in any court of the United States, than according to the rules of the common law. This is a type of censorship on the powers-that-be in this country.
Here and there seems, there seems to be quite a bit of commotion about censorship. Many self proclaimed writing aficionados spout off about stepping on "my freedom of speech" and the disrespect of a writer's first amendment rights. Here is what the first amendment says:
Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.
So, where is the line drawn? Well, let us start with the definition of poetry and when is critiquing considered censoring.
Ah yes, the definition of poetry. We can go to the good old dictionary.com and get a generic definition: The art or work of a poet. 1. Poems regarded as forming a division of literature. 2. The poetic works of a given author, group, nation, or kind. A piece of literature written in meter; verse. What is a poem? Again, I will use the on-line generic definition from dictionary.com: 1. A verbal composition designed to convey experiences, ideas, or emotions in a vivid and imaginative way, characterized by the use of language chosen for its sound and suggestive power and by the use of literary techniques such as meter, metaphor, and rhyme. 2. A composition in verse rather than in prose. 3. A literary composition written with an intensity or beauty of language more characteristic of poetry than of prose. 4. A creation, object, or experience having beauty suggestive of poetry.
I could go on and on about what poetry is or isn't but I won't, what needs to be understood is poetry is not an exact science.
What I find hypocritical, no one voices objections to the critiquing by so-called poetry experts. The First Amendment does not give carte blanche to rudeness and downright mean spirit-ness. As I stated earlier, poetry is not an exact science and the beauty of any poem is in the eye of the reader. Here is an excerpt written by a poet/teacher about “bad” poetry:
One of the most severe blocks poets face is perfectionism. Too many poets and aspiring poets feel they have to write a great poem every time they set pen to paper. They get frustrated when something does not work or they do not bother to write at all, because they just do not feel ‘inspired’. This sort of thinking destroys creativity. It stops many poets, and many other writers, from even putting the first word on the page. Poetic perfection is a great goal, but a terrible standard. You are not going to produce a great poem every time you sit down to write. You may go for days or weeks without producing anything that you feel is good enough. It can be frustrating, but it should not be defeating. Writing bad poetry is simply a part of writing poetry. --John Hewitt
So, who determines whose freedom of speech is to be verbally annihilated, or dumped into the recycle bin, in the name of critique? When does critique cross into censorship? Who, or what, self-proclaimed critic says that their opinion on a written word is etched in stone? When is it just to crush a writer’s feelings because a particular poem defies society’s sense of versified decorum? Where is it written that they have the wild card to mutilate a person’s write (not right) under the guise of critique? Yet, that same select few will belly ache about not being allowed their vulgarity and crassness under the guise of poetry. Yelp about how their freedom of speech is being violated when others object to their questionable writing tastes.
If a person does not have a grasp on the English language and can only use one-syllable, four letter words in a poem does this make one think that somehow, somewhere, the educational system has failed or etiquette has been flushed down the proverbial crapper.
Critique and censorship is in the eye of the reader. Depending on how learned the reader or writer is in literature will determine how they will react to criticism -- is it a critique or is it down right censorship.