The British bookstore chain pulled the plug on a booksigning by South Wales poet and playwright Patrick Jones at the 11th hour because of threats of protest from Christian extremists. He was due to launch a new poetry collection Darkness is Where the Stars Are.
Stephen Green (right) and campaigning organisation Christian Voice vowed to disrupt the event if it went ahead, saying that the book was "blasphemous".
In the end the poet had to sign copies in the street.
So what was so controversial about the poems? Jan Fortune -Wood, commissioning editor at Cinnamon Press (which published the book) :
A few of the poems deal with Patrick’s strong views on religion, particularly the way in which it is often associated with military conflict, the subjugation of women or movements that exclude the ‘outsider’. These are issues that art should rightly be pushing to the forefront of debate in a liberal society and there are people of faith who are concerned with such issues as well as humanists and secularists.William Crawley on the BBC website says :
Mr Jones is plainly a poet who addresses political and religious themes in his work. In this collection, some poems explore the portrayal of women and some deal with the relationship between Jesus and Mary Magdalene. He uses language that is, at times, raw. He would not be the first poet to address these themes or to use raw language.But as Fortune-Wood goes on to say :
Debate is not served by caving in to extremists, who do not even represent the majority of Christians, let alone the values of civil, liberal society, but proceed by threat and intimidation.Surely a bookstore has a duty to support its authors - from whom it makes its money, after all, and it's necessary to stand up against all who would silence a writer's voice. (Or the space for other voices shrinks away too.)
It's the job of the British police to offer protection against intimidation and thuggery, should the bounds of legitimate protest be overstepped.
You can hear both Jones and Green talking on the BBC Wales website.
Here is the publisher's statement :
If you feel strongly about the issue, do drop an e-mail to Gerry Johnson, Waterstone's Managing Director at firstname.lastname@example.org . (Be polite, please!)
You can also support Patrick Jones by buying a copy of his book from Cinnamon Press or from Amazon. (Mine is on the way!)
Carrie Dunn on the Guardian blog calls Waterstones "cowardly".
(Thanks, Jilly Kidd, a Second Life friend, for bringing this issue to my attention yesterday.)