Sunday, November 16, 2008
Statement by Cinnamon Press
Cinnamon Press has issued a video response to the cancellation of Patrick Jones' poetry reading at Cardiff Waterstones. The first part of the video is a bit over the top, including describing Mr. Jones' poems as Swiftian satire about religion. Swift must be spinning in his grave.
Personally, I consider the idea of launching a contest calling on people to post satirical poems about religion is missing the point.
This should not be an anti-religion crusade it is about reasserting people's freedom to speak out and deliver controversial points of view in public without being censored or shouted down.
The second part of the video is an official statement by the publishers and answers directly the allegation by Waterstones that Patrick Jones orchestrated the protests that led to the cancellation of his event.
Interestingly the statement is read out by an ordained Minister of religion.
Mr. Green isn't happy about that.
Mr. Black (South Wales West AM) says that he "of course has every right to object to the contents of this book but he does not have the right to prevent other people reading it or listening to its author read from it". And that Mr. Green isn't invited to the reading anyway.
I wish I had some Green & Black's."
How does the Cinnamon video statement square with the BBC's report on e-mails sent by Patrick Jones to various parties in the interest of sparking debate?
The Cinnamon Press statement says: "I [we don’t know who “I” is, but presumably one of Cinnamon's team] was … told on the phone that Waterstone’s considered Patrick Jones had taken actions that instigated the cancellation of the event. Having followed this up with the author it is clear that this is not the case. In fact the leader of Christian Voice [Stephen Green] had published remarks several months ago that Patrick had responded to in verse.
This was a separate and historical incident and not related to the launch in any way. The leader of Christian Voice is well known for his attempts to sabotage anything that does not meet with his approval and there is no doubt that he would have orchestrated this bigotry even if he’d never previously heard of Patrick. The cancellation was not due to Patrick’s actions, but only due to Waterstone’s decision to accede to a very small threat in a way not consistent with your previous policy."
I thought that they had organised a letter writing / phone call campaign in protest at something they found offensive, and Waterstones had cancelled the poetry reading on the basis that Mr Jones had breached the terms under which the reading was held by going around poking sticks into hornets nests in advance.
The Waterstones decision appears to be something of a convenient figleaf.
The correct way would be for Waterstones to go ahead and there to be a protest outside. Or - if they are worried about the interior of their shop - for it to be organised somewhere else. Protests against free expression need to be faced down, at whatever cost: it is not an area where there is room for compromise.
One serious point that does need addressing, however, is the handling of the concept of "breach of the peace". When a group protests peacefully, that guarantees than an event goes ahead, meanwhile the possibility of violence - as in the play in Birmingham - prevents a performance. That creates an incentive towards violent protest.
That needs to be reversed: a likelihood of a physical breach of the peace should be a reason for making damn sure that an event *does* go ahead.
>This was a separate and historical incident and not related to the launch in any way.
According to the Beeb timeline, a circulation of poems by PG was on Nov 2nd - which is just over a week before the launch. I don't think that qualifies as "historical".
>The cancellation was not due to Patrick’s actions, but only due to Waterstone’s decision to accede to a very small threat in a way not consistent with your previous policy.
That I think I agree with.
But for the record (again) the cancellation of the launch was a huge shock to us and no one associated with Cinnamon Press, including the author, informed Christian Voice about the launch. We at Cinnamon hadn’t even heard of CV until we walked into Waterstones with our trolley of wine after a five hour drive, to be told to go away again.
There is nothing ‘whiffy’ about us comparing the events to Salman Rushdie’s Satanic Verses (as one blogger put it). The comparison came from Waterstones’ staff who told Cinnamon Press that they have not received this level of controversial correspondence about a book since the publication of Satanic Verses. The difference being that in that case Waterstones were altogether more supportive of the publisher and author, leaving Cinnamon Press with the suspicion that when it comes to publishers, size matters.
There are several reasons why we would not have orchestrated this furore. For a start, we’re a tiny little press run by two and bit people already working flat out – there’s no PR department, no spin doctor, no secretary to answer the phone and even with all the extra publicity that the collection has had we have yet to make up the aborted launch costs.
More importantly we just don’t want aggression. In my last post I suffered three major assaults at work (ironic fact: I was working as a Vicar) – two of these assaults were life threatening – and I had to retire as a result – the injuries remain, but the post traumatic stress has largely been worked through and is under control. Facing these bullies presses lots of buttons and the notion that Cinnamon Press might have set this entire chain of events off as a publicity stunt couldn’t be more absurd.
And yes, the bullying continues – Waterstones can walk away, but patrick and Cinnamon still have a commitment to the book and to free speech. patrick will be reading at Y Ddraig Goch Cafe, Eastgate Street, Caernarfon, LL55 1AG on November 21st 7.30 p.m. and the venue has had lots of calls from Christian Voice supporters keeping up the vitriol. We are very impressed with the cafe owners who refuse to be intimidated and we’ll be there with books and support as patrick reads. We won’t be cowed, but it is pretty frightening to be facing all of this and certainly not planned.
No one is claiming that patrick is the new Jonathan Swift, but he is doing something in the serious tradition of satire that invites ‘deeper judgements about language, religion and politics’. That’s why he is seen as a threat, has come under attack and is still being threatened.
and JOCK coats- have you actually read the poems- this is my favourite- they are not all anti religious but deal with some of the author's most innermost pain and the world's beauty-
you take pieces daily,
incoherent babble blisters naive eardrums,
not the slap, the hit, the rack of bones,
but the marching metre of maledicta,
the avalanche of atrophic adverbs
judgement delivered by javelin throated jury
silent mornings when only the children sing,
the kitchen windows mist with heat from your mouth,
halatosed hours drip from burnt meat,
plug sockets spark from human static,
catatonia sings like stuck flies
the living room
under the strain of bloated bodies,
starving each other.
no flowers bloom in this drabness
no rings cling to quell this petrified present
saliva drools from varicose lips as you snarl your attrition,
and i i i am nowhere to be seen
i do not live here
i only exist,
head ached, congealed groin
treading water in septic tank
as the people come and go
even jehovah's witnesses get a smile,
friends sip tea, phone calls taken,
the bipolared grin,
the narcissist's indifference
this is my existence
thoughts fester like the ready meals i consume to satisfy this hunger.
other than my children,
i have not touched another human, really touched, felt.held.
for years; black out. forget. for death do us part.
i roam the house, looking for signs of life;
a child's book, an empty cup, frozen photograph.
i collapse in bed,
the dormant stone,
the sleeping grave,
push face into cool pillows
do not move
suck black molasses
staple lips to pages
i am alive
i am alive;
Chacun a son gout, I guess.
But for the record (again) the cancellation of the launch was a huge shock to us and no one associated with Cinnamon Press, including the author, informed Christian Voice about the launch. We at Cinnamon hadn’t even heard of CV until we walked into Waterstones with our trolley of wine after a five hour drive, to be told to go away again."
Patrick Jones said on his website.
"sent a few emails to various groups about 10 days before the launch- to organisations to religious groups- christian voice being one-( email below) with a few poems and asking for a debate-
that is all- now for that to be seem as a provocation for violent threats etc by christian voice is beyond my understanding-
No one else threatened violence or disruption-"
Who is telling the truth? You or Patrick Jones? He said he emailed Christian Voice.
Where is the spirit of art gone in Wales, of critique of asking big questions- let the debate rage not question how a bully got hold of info about the book-
time to grow up I think
Well done to Peter and Lorraine for standing up not only for free speech but for art and the part it plays in Welsh culture
I understand that the following message was posted on Patrick Jones' MySpace page. Could Cinnamon Press confirm whether or not this is true?
"hi- i am waging a word war with an evil organsiation called- christian voice led by the ever so saintly and ever so bigotted stephen green
they truly are a frightening group of people- hating all who do not share their belief in the invisible man in the sky-
anyway in my new book i have quite a few anti religious works that aim to cause dialogi=ue and debate from certain religious quarters andi want to flush these christian voice people out of their pews- so have a read of the article below and check out their site
www. christianvoice. org. uk
and i was wodnering if we coudl play a little trick- would anyone be willing to email them warning of my impending book and poetry reading in cardiff and how it contains anti religious poems and i criticise stephen green and that they shoudl do soemthing about it-
if we al lwrite and attack them theyll close down and hide but if we are a little subtle we can get them out and expose them for what they are-
thanks fellow free thinkers