Pornography, Poetry, Censorship & Identity in Kevin Rudd's Australia
When published in the pages of a prestigious Australian literary periodical in the early C21st, two erotic poems created a literary scandal. They were denounced as 'pornography' tantamount to a human rights violation and their author was labelled a 'pornographer' and accused of witchcraft. It was the first time since the 1950s case of Rosaleen Norton and Gavin Greenless that a poet was accused of witchcraft.
To denigrate the author pursuant to threats of physical violence, he was given the derogatory nickname 'The Porno Poet' and his live readings were censored from South Australia's prestigious Friendly Street Poets. His increasingly sexually explicit and politically contentious work was accused of transgressing the form of poetry: but that was its intent all along.
“I have heard him read and I do think it is confronting and I can see why we are getting calls of complaint, because in my view it crosses the line and it’s not poetry either.” (Jude Aquilina)
“Pornography in poetry’s clothing is still pornography.” (Peter Eason)
“‘Cum Shot, Looped’ is offensive to ordinary, moral Americans as it insinuates that seeking the services of a prostitute is something culturally borrowed.” (Karla Tanti)
“‘A little Death in Pornotopia’ is offensive to Christians and those who see the sex act as a sacred rite between two committed individuals. In its juxtaposition of orgiastic ritual and prayer, its assertion that ‘I once was blind but now I see’ comparing ejaculation to death and peace, it refers to ejaculation as magical and holds up pornography as the ultimate good. This is outright witchcraft.” (Karla Tanti)
“I’m not a prude and I’m all for erotica and stuff that shows human beings to be open and free and aware of themselves in classical layers or even in decadent ways, but I don’t think this has got anything to do with art - its morbid and moves into the pathological.” (Peter Eason)
“[The Porno Poet]’s writing is clearly pornographic as it invites the audience to think about women that are under age or ‘barely legal’ and able to be purchased for sex.” (Karla Tanti)
“[The Porno Poet] revels in using Friendly Street members as guinea pigs in his social experiments. I hope the issue dies quickly and (his) work gains the ignominy it so richly deserves…” (Rob Walker)
“I am very much for free speech and all that sort of thing but we have some older people who will never come to Friendly Street again and we have some younger people - one of whom was sexually abused - and it makes her sick to hear him read these works.” (Jude Aquilina)
“[The Porno Poet] read hard-core erotica. Whether I personally liked it or not is irrelevant... It did not overtly offend me, and, it could be said, within its content it was well written.” (John De Laine)
“The transgression lies in the disrespect for the poet’s craft when words are used as weapons to savage the empty carcasses of men women children, gays, whores and transvestites.” (Gaetano Aiello)
From a Great Height
Poetry, Censorship & Identity in Kevin Rudd's Australia
Publication date: 16/02/2018
Experimental Verse Created a Literary Scandal on Original Publication now Uncut!
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