Whatchu Say?!: Creativity Versus Censorship
Alls my life I had to fight.
Not really. But there's been a continuous battle going on.
See, on one side, there's the pleasant Nick, nice Nick. On the other side, there's Nick the rebel.
Pleasant Nick is a generally low-key individual. He won't start nothin', just to make sure it won't be nothin'. He keeps his nose clean, his mind in his business, and studies his books. Above all else, Pleasant Nick follows the rules.
Nick the Rebel, however, does not follow the rules. Nick the Rebel is a rabble-rouser, a ne'er-do-well, a rapscallion. Nick the Rebel starts stuff. Nick the Rebel wishes somebody would. There's something wrong with Nick the Rebel.
When it comes to poetry, these two fellows tend to operate with two different ideologies.
Pleasant Nick loves to live for the art, and the art alone. Nick the Rebel is out to make you uncomfortable with his art.
Pleasant Nick luh the kids. Nick the Rebel is tryna make soldiers to fight for the cause.
Pleasant Nick chooses his words carefully. Nick the Rebel advocates for the potty-mouths.
And back and forth it goes. As a poet and lover of the arts, there is a bit of dissonance between the allure of unbridled creativity and the responsibility of censorship. In my experiences, nothing agitates an artist more than being told what not to do, or what not to say. The whole purpose of art, it would seem, would be to create without bounds or restrictions or limitations. Let me do me, in other words.
Recently, a tipping point was reached.
Actually, I shouldn't say it like that, because it sounds as if it finally reached that point of no return. In actuality, this has been a constant struggle; the tipping point has been tipped over, ad nauseum. When I first discovered spoken word, the magic of pouring emotion into a fluid rhyme scheme was intoxicating. There was a freedom that I hadn't been given access to before. It was like rap, but realer to me. With spoken word, you had to know what you were doing with the words you were using. It demanded a particular command of the language and a broad range and comprehension of passion, which was like catnip to me.
So I decided to try my hand at it.
It wasn't long before I started to cuss in my poems. I thought that I had the creative license to do so, simply because I felt it. I felt the anger and the frustration. I felt the passion and the lust. Armed and dangerous, I remember feeling oddly justified in it, so I ran to show my parents.
Needless to say, it got shut down pretty quickly.
It wouldn't be the last time though. Time and time again, the content of the art that appealed to me came into direct conflict with the burden of being presented and represented appropriately and responsibly. To be honest, it's still something that I wrestle with every time I place pen to pad, especially in these days of social unrest. I've mentioned it before, many times, I feel hopeless, and I have a lot of language inside of me that testifies to this. Nick the Rebel does indeed have a bone to pick.
But simply because I may own the creative license to feel what I feel and craft it in (possibly) inspiring ways, does that mean I should? Where does it end? When does art get to evoke those raw emotions?
So what does this mean? Should artists watch their mouths and not say bad things, bad words? Or should we, as a society, just put on some big boy pants/panties and hope that our creatives don't say anything too bad?
I'd love to hear your thoughts.