Tuesday, September 30, 2014


 To listen to an audio recital of the poem, click here

My thanks to the Brigit Saint Brigit theater in Omaha for the poster

The list of poems banned as heresies, whether religious, political, moral or social, is too long for this page. Noteworthy among them is Ovid’s “Ars Amatoria”, which upset the Roman Emperor Augustus so much that he both banned the work and banished the poet; the poem survived, until the monk Savonarola included it in his “Bonfire of the Vanities” in 1497. Christopher Marlowe translated it into English in 1599, only to find his version banned and himself imprisoned; and U.S. customs added it to their list in 1930. The 1881 edition of Walt Whitman’s endlessly rewritten and reprinted canonical “Leaves of Grass” was banned in Boston, though that city now requires study of it as part of its Literature programme in secondary schools; required reading and banning are of course both forms of coercion and control. The French government suppressed six of the poems in Baudelaire’s “Les Fleurs du Mal” and charged him with corrupting public morals; the work was republished the following year and has never been out-of-print since. The complete works of Osip Mandelstam disappeared on Stalin’s orders, with the poet banished to death-by-exile. Alan Ginsberg’s “Howl” fell victim to an obscenity trial in 1957. “Education for Leisure” by the current English Poet Laureate Carol Anne Duffy was banned in 2008 by the school’s examinations board AQA…plus ça change…


at Arcetri
near Florence
under house arrest
working only under close policing
completely blind
censured by the ecclesiastical authorities
sentenced to death by Pope Urban VIII
(commuted at the personal behest of the Duke of Tuscany)
on the 65th birthday of the Danish astronomer Johannes Fabricius
(the man who actually discovered sunspots)
on the anniversary of the death of Marco Polo
at the age of 77
Galileo Galilei
broken on the rack of disappointment

Of his achievements we can list:

the inference
    from the oscillations of a lamp
        suspended in the cathedral at Pisa
            of the usefulness of a pendulum
                in measuring time exactly

the invention of a hydrostatic balance
a treatise on the law of specific gravity
the theory of falling bodies
the invention of the thermometer
    and the proportional compass
the development of the refracting telescope
    and its use in determining
        the nature of the lunar landscape
the discernment of the structure of the Milky Way
the discovery of four satellites of Jupiter
the proof of solar rotation
    based on the evidence of sunspots
the law of uniformly accelerated motion
the law of the parabolic path of projectiles
the law of virtual velocities
the law of inevitable weightedness

All these
                         or heresy
depending on your point of view

"Heresies" is published in "Welcome To My World, Selected Poems 1973-2013", The Argaman Press. Click here to purchase the book.

Copyright © 2014 David Prashker
All rights reserved
The Argaman Press

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