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Thursday, 13 November 2008

Poetic injustice

It’s time to boycott Waterstone’s. The UK national bookseller chain has just kicked a poet out of its shop in Cardiff after protests from a nutty Christian group based in West Wales.

Patrick Jones – poet, playwright, filmmaker and brother of Nicky Wire, of the Welsh band the Manic Street Preachers – was supposed to be signing copies of his latest book of poems, Darkness is Where the Stars Are, there yesterday. But Christian hooligans complained – about just what, we’re not sure – and Waterstone’s caved in.

The story is here on the BBC Welsh news site. What is particularly galling is that the supine Waterstone’s spokesman said, grovelling to Christian superstitionists who may not even have read the book (we’re not told in this story), “The book remains available through Waterstone’s and we are very happy for that to be the case.

“However, we have a duty to our customers and booksellers regarding events that we organise, and we felt it prudent in this case.

“We don’t act as a censor. We stock books in the tens of thousands and would only remove them from sale on the advice of the publisher.”

So did the publisher, Cinnamon Press, advise removal? This story doesn’t tell us. Lazy journalism again.

What the story does tell us is that the nutcase Stephen Green, who probably makes up a large percentage of Christian Voice, said that this was “a triumph for the Lord, not for us”. This lunatic goes on, “The Lord had not even showed me what we should do at Waterstone’s, only that it should be Christlike.

“Just the knowledge that we were on our way has put the fear of God into the opposition.”

Well, it put the fear of something into the cowardly people at Waterstone’s, that’s for sure. Write to the bastards, tell them you won’t be using their stores, and ensure you tell them why. Be polite but firm, and use better punctuation than the BBC. They’re more likely to take you seriously.

Jones had been expecting to launch the book at the Cardiff Hayes branch of Waterstone’s on Wednesday night. I’ve seen several websites with his name coupled with that of Waterstone’s, all looking forward to the event.

But, a few hours before the planned event, the poet, who’s from Blackwood, Caerphilly county, was contacted by the company to tell him the event had been cancelled “to avoid potential disruption to our store”.

Jones was not going to be “beaten down”, by religious activists, he said, and signed copies for a small group of people in the street.

“I’m really proud of this book and I’m really sickened.

“There shouldn’t be censorship of this sort – it doesn’t set out to be offensive.”

He said he had not singled out Christianity in his poems, but was questioning beliefs in society.

UPDATE: Since posting, I've been looking at a few websites. The Sony BMG Music Entertainment website, on the page that heralded this signing session back in October, had this to say of the poetry in this volume:

The poetry is harrowing, compelling and psychologically acute [. . .] giving the reader an insight into the painful effects of domestic abuse, as well as addressing bullying, religious fundamentalism and the way children are taught at school.

Well, that vies us some idea, then. The religious fundamentalists don't like being called religious fundamentalists, it seems. It then carries a couple of endorsements: “very strong stuff” – Harold Pinter; “thoughtful, provocative and challenging, these poems engage and enrage” – Peter Tatchell. It goes on to give details of tour readings, so, if you missed the Waterstone's one because of caving in to religious fundamentalists, you can still catch him.

You can get the same information at the Columbia site. As I say above, several sites signpost this event, so it was widely anticipated.

1 comment:

Cinnamon Press said...

Thanks so much for covering this. this is a fantastic, brave and innovative poetry collection and we (Cinnamon Press) are completely in support of patrick jones and his right to free speech and artistic integrity. there's a website supporting the book at