I bought a “self-publishing” contract with a reputable firm connected to a major Christian publisher. For help with margins and a cover design, the price was right. I excitedly hit “send” and waited for my volume of poetry to be available in print. Imagine my surprise when I was asked to make some revisions to reduce “violence and gore”!
The problem? Christ’s blood kept pouring, oozing, weeping, seeping and condescending through my poetry. The firm was unmoved by my pleas that, in truth, His Precious Blood is the very fountain of life, of anti-violence, of beauty. These images were connected to mother’s milk, waterfalls, abundant life and glorious freedom – how could they offend anyone? I realized I was dealing with people who were not likely interested in arguments from the realm of artistic truth, but when capital “T” Truth failed, I tried that next.
What about the need to tell the truth in art…the whole truth…the truth of blood and violence and evil and ugliness? God seems to have thought it important enough to fill His narrative of history with such realities. The Bible couldn’t have made it past their censor. This contrast between whitewash and the whiteness of garments washed in the blood of the Lamb, between propaganda and truth had to do with another of their quibbles. One of my characters in a poem – a plucky rooster, defending his territory – mentions “that damned dog,” but the d-word is out unless it is God actually damning someone to hell. (And ‘hell’ is only okay in that context, I suppose.)
I wondered how they expected non-Christians to believe we have a faith that can face reality, tell the truth, embrace actual people who speak with actual expletives, if we are this queasy about a rooster with an attitude. They remained unmoved and were not receptive to my suggestion that I cite passages from great Christian writers in my own defense. No replacement words were acceptable, so even if I tamed it to ‘=”drat,” “darn,” or “dang,” that poem was out. Perhaps if I hadn’t used an even worse profanity, we could have come to terms.
Alas, my use of the phrase “in gay abandon” was the third nail in my coffin. Nothing could convince them that this was not a reference to homosexuality, and they – non-literate types, or at least, non-poet types – actually suggested I replace the word “gay” with “wanton,” or “reckless.” I pointed out that the word “gay” has meanings that people of the Word should be fighting to recall, and that neither of their substitutes either scan, or mean the same thing as I meant by it. To me, the word adds, literally, “bright, cheerful color” to the “delighted, happy feelings” I meant to convey.
Well, now you know: your fellow Guild member is violent, gorey, and profane. Strangely, though, my poetry is also worshipful, prayerful, sacramental and sane. You can see it, if you want to double-check! For violence, see Love, With Blood. For my favorite fowl, see Rooster. For that abandon clothed in color, see Avian Medley.
Next stop: actual self-publishing, with whatever cover I can muster on my own.