Poems of Parenthood

“Being a new parent is nice, but not always. Sure, the days are filled with tiny laughs and lots of firsts, but sometimes they’re filled with cries, and sometimes you miss the firsts because you’re off crying in your car. Nothing is always nice, but nothing is awful all the time, either. I hope these poems convey in a real, human way how it is to have an infant.” — Rich Glinnen

Free

The question “Does censorship destroy freedom?” is, of course, impossible to answer yes or no. Certainly censorship can be a tool of tyranny and oppression, as we are seeing in Myanmar and Hong Kong today. But in a society which strives to be “free,” if the censor respects his or her jurisdiction and acts as an instrument reflecting current standards and (perceived) values, then a particular act of censorship can be appropriate and harmless, at least in the long run. The wealthy and powerful tend to enjoy “more free speech” because they have the means to reach a wider audience with a bigger splash, of course.
Academics have written about the “tyranny of iambic pentameter” in English-language poetics, lasting till late in the 19th century. The expression is figurative, though, as there was no actual “tyranny”: only a centuries-old tradition of taste, a vogue, a zeitgeist. Gerard Manley Hopkins (b. 1844) is frequently credited with breaking through and “freeing” the metric line with his technique of “sprung rhythms.” But Emily Dickinson and Walt Whitman were writing outside of that tradition as early as the 1830s.
Today, many literary journals refuse to publish, and professors regularly tell their students not to write, rhymed or metric poetry. These practices, too, reflect a current zeitgeist. Still, I have noticed that when editors or poetry professors say “free verse,” they really mean “unrhymed, unmetric, and non-formal.” Verse that is not free to rhyme is not really free verse at all.

Unspoken

Censorship is just another way to prevent free speech, a right that is clearly and proudly stated within the First Amendment. People claim that what political preferences call opinion is ‘hate speech’ or, in other words, offensive. This obviously does happen. People can and do use that right with the wrong idea in mind, but getting kicked off of Facebook over political opinion is completely and utterly wrong on a number of levels. Censorship, to most, seems like the responsible thing to do. “It’s to keep inappropriate images and comments off of children’s websites!” Which is fine. But that’s only where it begins. In the end, everyone is too caught up in sparing everyone else’s feelings to realize they’re handing away the precious gift that brave men and women died to uphold and protect. It’s a gift that countries like China do not have, and look where they are now. (If I were in China, I would be killed in a back alley for saying this.) It’s a gift that a few hundred years ago was worth getting publicly executed for. It’s a gift that we have begun to take for granted, and that needs to end. Censorship is a shortcut to destroying our constitutional rights, and we’re letting it slip through our fingers. So, in summary, censorship is ill-advised, unjust, and dangerous to the people of America.

The Problem With Pythagoras

I came up with the Pythagoras argument during one of those tiresome “How can you separate the art from the artist” conversations, and successfully demonstrated how easy it was for us to separate the Math from the mathematician. That prompt, “Would you ask that question about Pythagoras?” turned into this story. In that sense it is definitely the most unrealistic piece I have ever written, but relates to the smothering frustration of Twitter and cancel culture.

The Tyranny of I: Meditation on the Benefits of Censorship

My essay argues that freedom in society cannot exist without censorship. Because censorship is evident in every society, it becomes crucial in identifying where and how it must be usefully applied. For the questions posed by this contest, I explain why it’s tenable a company would allow a foreign dictator accused of mass murder to be part of a media platform, but not a native-born politician who occupies an elected position. I seek to illustrate the existential damage that conspiracy theories and unreality can do to a democracy if allowed to instantiate itself into the elected hierarchy, and that a suitable way to combat this collective poisoning is to allow various public entities to be engaged in censoring their own platforms. Finally, I make the point that cancel culture is a symptom of social mores and civil boundaries shifting, rather than speech
being shrunk or curtailed. I do this while acknowledging that as large shifts in public expectations change, there will always be anecdotal examples that are generated by these shifts, many of which serve the purpose of alarmists on all sides. The obvious fact is, every society engages in censorship. It’s merely a question of how much, and in what way.

On the Misused Buzzword That Is Cancel Culture

I believe that censorship is the only acceptable course of action for certain instances. There are those who directly use social media as a form of abuse, such as those who share the home of an individual and effectively dox them. That said, in my essay, I will strive to elaborate on how the concepts of censorship and cancel culture are distorted to fit political agendas. The increasingly frequent misapplication of Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act is a prime example of the way in which we discuss censorship without acknowledging that there is no law that prevents a private corporation from abiding by its own set of decency guidelines. In fact, Section 230 specifically establishes the allowance of such guidelines. But, despite this allowance, it’s also crucial that we take care in how we censor, as the deliberate banning of certain voices can only cause such personas to thrive in more toxic ecosystems in which we don’t have transparency.

Irony, Conformism, & Outdated Social Norms in The Human Condition

The following digital collages intend to question outdated social and cultural norms and behaviors, and stimulate a critical conversation leading to change by liberating human experience from the boundaries of conformism. The artist draws inspiration from music, society, literature, ukio-e, and sci-fi; and often repurposes lighthearted vintage imagery to explore themes such as feminism, mental health, and human interactions.

How Many?

Censorship can destroy freedom, but some level of “censorship” (or oversight) can also create an environment that enables freedom to flourish for those who may otherwise be unfairly targeted by false, often hate-filled rhetoric. My piece is a reflection on what happens when we are so focused on restricting any and all forms of censorship that we allow dangerous viewpoints, often controlled by the wealthy, elite, to flood the marketplace.
Throughout history and now with the spread of fake news (actual fake news, not the kind complained of by that formerly powerful person), we can see how widespread suffering can be perpetuated by unchecked speech, i.e., through vaccine and pandemic-related disinformation, etc. We already have limitations on free speech when it comes to incitement, but as my piece points out, we often allow the political elite to get away with using their platform and resources to spread dangerous information that does not necessarily rise to incitement, and this sometimes has dire consequences. Who really knows how many lives could be saved if we didn’t allow elites to make outrageous claims that influenced public opinion? After all, slavery was once grounded in religion, Syrian refugees were likened to terrorists coming to take over countries, and anyone can see the result of massive disinformation surrounding the pandemic. Reflecting on this, it makes one wonder just how many lives could (and should) have been allowed to flourish if we would be willing to do something to combat disinformation — even if that means agreeing to some level of censorship.

Words as Weapons

Freedoms of speech and press are the unalienable factors of what constitutes a free society. They are what separate the U.S. and other free democracies from the authoritarian leadership principles held by Nazi Germany, Communist China, the U.S.S.R., and the Socialist dictatorships currently in power throughout South America. It’s what gives U.S. citizens the right to criticize our government’s actions, no matter who’s in power, without fear of repercussion or even death. I find it unequivocally revolting that there are those on the far Left in America today, including many Left-leaning poets and writers, who push for these freedoms to be stripped away from our population. Especially after the Liberal poets of the 1950s and 60s put their freedom on the line to fight for freedom of expression against the Conservative consensus culture of Cold War-era America. The idea of supporting censorship in any fashion, I believe, is a slap in the face to great poets like Allen Ginsberg and our recently lost Lawrence Ferlinghetti, who fought for these freedoms for all writers to enjoy. When the only plausible recourse against those who wish to take our freedoms from us is our voices, my words are my weapons in this war, and I refuse to be disarmed.