Saturday, November 10, 1990

Andrei Vosnesensky, National Poetry Week

Andrei Vosnsensky reading my CPITS/CAC poetry book, Poem for a Russian Child.

I spent an afternoon with Andrei Vosnesensky, who was the headline poet for National Poetry Week, ar Fort Mason, San Francisco. I was attempting to give Andrei a tabloid anthology I had edited with Oleg Atbashian, Soviet Poetry Since Glasnost. Herman Berlandt published the tabloid, via National Poetry Association.

Andrei Vosnesensky commenting on our publication, Soviet Poetry Since Glasnost, National Poetry Week, SF, 1990. Oleg Atbashian was my co-translator from Cherkassy.
Little did Oleg know that within a year (1990), he'd be in San Francisco, frantically working with me round the clock in an old military complex-cum-art center, Fort Mason, pasting up a newspaper-style tamizdat journal, "Soviet Poetry Since Glasnost," (Mother Earth), in time for Herman Berlandt's annual National Poetry Week. From 1989 to 1991, we published many new Soviet poets including Yan Martsinkevitch, and Viktor Kulle. (See also.)

Poetry Unites the World by Dr. Andrei Bantaş 

Soviet Poetry Since Glasnost 

Letter from Oleg Atbashian
The New Zamizdat

Oleg Atbashian—my jacket, my guitar.
National Poetry Week, SF, 1990.

Maureen Hurley I think Celia Woloch took this photo

Alastair Ingram Is that Oleg Atabashian? The guy I recorded with when he was here?
Maureen Hurley Yep! He went back to the USSR, then it fell and he came back to NYC, he's a political commentator for the Russian Community. Google him.

Alastair Ingram Wow. That was quick! I will google him. I really like the recording we did together. Have you heard it?

Maureen Hurley Yeah, I'm having a bit of a nostalgia moment here. Pulled out my negatives to find a guy who was imprisoned at Manzanar—for a blog I'm writing and I got VERY distracted. Scanned my Galapagos prints too, Don't think I'll get them up tonight.

Oleg went back to the USSR, & to his wife, had another kid and she began stalking me in the internet...too creepy. Haven't talked with him since 9/11. He was next door in the AMEX building but he overslept and missed his train.
Now he's become the loose leaf darling of the ultra right teabaggers.

compiled from Facebook notes 4/24/2016

Thursday, November 1, 1990

Literary censorship still poses a threat

Literary censorship still poses a threat
by Tod Harris

Within a country that stands for freedom and equality, the actual “banning” of literary works seems unlikely. However, recently in Sonoma County there have been a growing number of cases of book banning and challenging. According to Sonoma County journalist and poet, Maureen Hurley, there are 174 cases of book-banning in the United States. Books are being banned and challenged for reasons of sexual explicitness, profanity, immorality, and religion. There have been some cases where the book is banned because “it does not meet the standards of the community,” or it is thought to be “garbage being passed off as literature,” 

In the Cotati-Rohnert Park Unified School district, Margaret Atwood’s “The Handmaid’s Tale”, is being challenged in Rancho Cotate High School due to the use of explicit language and sexuality. In alliance with school policy, a mother has written a letter protesting the reading material for a 12th grade English class and has outlined the material she objects. Administrative Assistant to the Superintendent of the Cotati-Rohnert Park school district, Karen Tobacco, says there is one formal written challenge and two parents and one local minister have come forward. Tobacco says that The Site Level Review Committee has met once and will meet again to decide on the book. Tobacco says,“During that lime the book is used in the classroom, however, those who object can request an alternative assignment.” Some of the outlined material being challenged within the book includes a scene between a patient and her doctor. It reads; ‘“How are we getting along?’ he says, some tic of speech from the other time. The sheet is lifted from my skin, a draft pimples me. A cold finger, rubberclad and jellied, slides into me, I am poked and prodded. The finger retreats, enters otherwise, withdraws. “Nothing wrong with you,” the doctor says, as if to himself. “Any pain, honey?” He calls me honey.'” 

A Site Level Review Committee consisting of the principal of Rancho Cotate, four members of the school, one member of the district, and a community member will now decide whether ‘The Handmaid’s Tale” is appropriate for a senior English class in Rancho Cotate. 

Unfortunately, Rancho Cotate is not the first Sonoma County school to be challenged with literary censorship. Approximately eight years ago “Dini”, by Judy Blume, was challenged whether or not it was appropriate material to be allowed on a book shelf at Rohnert Park Junior High. 

In another part of Sonoma County, Michael Woodke, Director of Secondary Education for Santa Rosa City Schools, says two years ago a Judy Blume book was challenged at the junior high level in the Santa Rosa school district. Woodke also says, two years ago Judith Guest’s “Ordinary People” was challenged at Montgomery High School. According to Santa Rosa School District policy, if a parent raises a concern about school material, a parent may present an argument before a committee made up of professionals who will decide whether it will be used or not. If the parent is dissatisfied, the parent may appeal. Woodke says material could be sensitive to some people and that “We have an obligation to give them an alternative assignment” Incidents like these are abundant. 

In 1984, Alice Walker’s “The Color Purple” was challenged reading material for an Oakland high school honors class due to “sexual and social explicitness, its troubling ideas about race relations, man’s relationship to God, African history and human sexuality.” In “The Color Purple”, Walker writes; ‘“Dear God, They have made three babies together but he squeamish bout giving her a bath. Maybe he figure he start thinking bout things he shouldn’t. But what bout me? First lime 1 got the full sight of Shug Avery long black body with it black plum nipples, look like her mouth, I thought I had turned into a man. What you staring at? she ast. Hateful. She weak as a kitten. But her mouth just pack with claws. You never seen a naked woman before? No ma’am, I said. I never did. Cept for Sofia, and she so plump and ruddy and crazy she feel like my sister.’” 

In California, an astonishing number of schools have also faced situations concerning censorship. In 1988, Ray Billington’s “Limericks: Historical and Hysterical”, was removed and later returned to the Tokay High School library in Lodi, California. Reportedly the book was “really inappropriate and there ought to be better books on limericks available.” 

In 1985, the Hayward, California school trustees rejected the purchase of Stephen King’s “Cujo” due to “rough language” and “explicit sex scenes.” This same year, the Hayward, California school trustees rejected the purchase of “The Color Purple” because of “explicit sex.” 

In 1982, The American Heritage Dictionary was removed from school libraries in Folsom, California due to “objectionable language.” These examples are part of what is happening across the state and across the nation. 

Mimi Albert, author of‘The Second Story Man”, and “The Small Singer”, Chair of Freedom to Write in the Bay Area, and instructor at SRJC, with the help of others, formed a banned book reading in Petaluma. The reading was in response to the recent challenge of “The Handmaid’s Tale”. Hurley also attended the reading. Hurley, a writer for “The West Sonoma County Paper” says half of the states in America have banned books and there are 35 cases of banned books in Oregon. Hurley says California, Michigan, and Oregon lead the nation in cases of banned books. 

In 1989, Stephen King’s “The Stand” was restricted to ninth grade students at the Whitford Intermediate School in Beaverton, Oregon because it was charged that the material does not enlighten, uplift or encourage character building traits. In 1988, “Cutting Edge” by Dennis Etchison was challenged at the Eugene, Oregon Public Library for its language, sexual nature and “perversity.” 

In 1988, Tabor Evans’ “Longarm in Virginia City” was removed from the Jordan Valley, Oregon Union High School, charged with being “too sexually graphic.” In 1988, “Devils and Demons” by Thoda Blumberg was challenged at the Newberg, Oregon Public Library. Apparently, the book was too graphic and the topic was negative and degrading. In 1989, Larry King’s “Tell It To the King” was challenged at the Public Libraries of Saginaw, Michigan. Supposedly it is “an insult to one’s intelligence” and contains foul language. 

Prior to the reading of banned books, Albert presented a situation concerning artists and the Helms amendment, a law that’s been in effect since October of 1989. According to the Helms amendment, artists must sign an obscenity oath to receive funding from the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA). With the Helms amendment, an artist’s work goes before judges who decide whether the work is obscene or not.“ The ramifications of this are very frightening,” says Albert. Even with the growing threat of censorship and the increasing challenges against the First Amendment, people are still in a position to speak out on their objections. Opinions may be voiced to legislatures as well as school district personnel.

With the Helms amendment, an artist’s work goes before judges who decide whether the work is obscene or not.

California, Michigan, and Oregon lead the nation in cases of banned books.

Submit poetry and short fiction works to: Feature Editor In care of the Oak Leaf or drop by materials in the Feature box at the Oak Leaf.

Photo by: Steph Mason Miml Albert, SRJC instructor and the Chair of anti-censorship organization, Freedom to Write.