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Oregon poetry anthology censored

After weeks of editing and sending out for bids from book manufacturers, we though we had found the right company, with the right price, to print RAISING OUR VOICES: AN ANTHOLOGY OF OREGON POETS AGAINST THE WAR. We sent it off early last week, and have been waiting patiently for our blueline. Instead of a draft, today we received a package with our book in it, a returned check, and a letter from the company....
Our book is being censored. What is it, you ask? Porn? A reprint of The Anarchist Cookbook?

Well, no...it's a book of poetry. I contains some of the finest poets in the country. The introduction, in fact, was written by Ursula K. Le Guin and Judith Barrington.

After weeks of editing and sending out for bids from book manufacturers, we though we had found the right company, with the right price, to print RAISING OUR VOICES: AN ANTHOLOGY OF OREGON POETS AGAINST THE WAR. We sent it off early last week, and have been waiting patiently for our blueline. Instead of a draft, today we received a package with our book in it, a returned check, and a letter from the company, Color House Graphics, of Grand Rapids, Michigan. The letter said:

Dear Duane,

We appreciate you sending the job materials for RAISING OUR VOICES. Unfortunately we will not be able to accept the order.
After reviewing the laser copy we believe that our employees may take offense to the content of the book. We would also risk
offending our customers who do not share the same point of view as portrayed in the book.

We regret any inconvenience to you and trust you will understand our decision.

Sincerely
Phil Knight
Director of Sales

I understand Mr. Knight's decision all too well. It is censorship, pure and simple. Mr. Knight tries to paint it as a "bottom line" issue. I'm sure many of his employees and customers will not care for the content of our book. But I also suspect that many of Color House Graphics customers, and potential customers, DO share our point of view. Furthermore, most independent publishers are very sensitive to issues of censorship, whether or not they agree with us about the war in Iraq.

This kind of censorship is of particular concern to writers and tiny publishers like us. There are only a few dozen affordable, small-run (less the 2000 copies) book manufacturers in the U.S. Our options are now one less, and our publishing schedule has been set back at least two weeks.

If you would like to tell Color House Graphics what you think of their business practices, here is their contact information:

Color House Graphics, 3505 Eastern Ave., Grand Rapids, MI 49508. Toll Free Telephone: 800-454-1916.
Email:  pknight@colorhousegraphics.com

homepage: homepage: http://www.rainynightspress.com/opaw/

my email to Knight and colorhouse publishing 21.May.2003 11:00

Ken

Dear Mr. Knight-- I was surprised to learn that your company has decided
not to publish the book _Raising Our Voices_. Though, of course, it is
your right to choose to publish or not publish whatever you wish, your
reasons for making this decision remain obscure to me. Is it the policy of
your company to only publish works that represent your own viewpoints? Or
perhaps you publish only books that could not be offensive to any possible
readers (a difficult task, indeed)? Or perhaps money from Oregon just
isn't green enough for your company to accept.

Whatever your real reasons for refusing this job, I find the decision
troubling, especially in a current American climate of rising fear,
jingoism, and repression of dissent. Your action is a good example of the
fact, becoming more clear every day, that in trying to defend its
freedoms, America has lost them.

Your actions are such a good example of this principle that I will use
your company specifically in the future, in my writing classes and other
forums, to illustrate the creep of intolerance into our once free
society. And, naturally, I will look for your imprint whenever shopping
for books. If I find a book printed by your company, I won't buy it.

peace,
Ken

A lead for you 21.May.2003 11:34

salaud

I got a pretty good deal publishing my book of poetry from a small shop. I'm not sure that they will have the same response. contact me at  jsalaud@hotmail.com.

You're full of shit! 21.May.2003 13:13

Bee

Its not censorship. The press has the right to refuse a project. You can't make them publish something.

another letter 22.May.2003 04:32

another person

Dear Mr. Knight;

I have just read that you refused to publish Raising Our Voices. This is, of course, your right. It's also a shame. Please consider the reasons you have provided to justify your decision.

"Unfortunately we will not be able to accept the order. After reviewing the laser copy we believe that our employees may take offense to the content of the book. We would also risk offending our customers who do not share the same point of view as portrayed in the book."

Freedom of speech is an American ideal. I would hope that the employees of Color House Graphics are strongly in support of the First Amendment in spite of personal disagreements with the content of Raising Our Voices. I would hope that they would stand proud in giving voice to all parties, and in letting the merit, or lack thereof, of Raising Our Voices speak for itself.

Sure, you have the right to reject any customer. That's YOUR freedom of speech. But if all publishing houses decline to publish certain subject matter, then that kills the freedom of speech that we hold so dear. It kills the "marketplace of ideas". That is, I believe, why good journalism is supposed to tell both sides of the story, though one side may be unpopular. That is, I believe, why publishers should keep personal opinion from influencing the decision on what to publish.

As for your fear that some customers may be offended, I find that to be unfounded. When I think of the many dozens of books sitting on my shelves, I can't think of who publishes any of them! How many people really pay attention to who publishes a book? And more importantly, who is going to buy a copy of Raising Our Voices? People who agree with it. I suspect it would be stocked in liberal book stores, so how is a conservative going to run across it? And with the many publications speaking out on both sides of the war issue, why would anybody choose to boycott your publishing house for publishing one book amongst a sea of books with far greater circulation? Or to even consider shopping elsewhere for a publisher? How many of your customers research every title you've published before going with you?

On the other hand, it's quite a bit more common to spread the word on businesses who are perceived as being against free speech, pro-war, etc. Until people have a reason to specifically look for who publishes a book, they probably won't. You've just given me one.

Well, here's to freedom of speech.

Sincerely,
my name here

Well said, Ken 22.May.2003 07:03

And this is scary

I will make sure to note the publisher of any book from now on, to make sure it isn't this publisher.

Indeed, it's a scary thing to see that this work was not published because they felt it would "offend" someone. It seems to me that it is the sensibilities of the person who made that decision which were offended, not any customers.

America is really a hypocritical place. People spout words like "freedom" and "democracy" and "free speech" at the rest of the world all day long. In fact, they justify wars with these words. And yet, they're all just bullshit. We're no more free here than anywhere else. We're just less willing to face that fact.

We send people all over the place to observe elections, to make sure they're "fair," at the same time our CIA is fixing those elections. And we all know how fair our last presidential election was. We drop bombs (for oil) on another country after convincing the world it's all in the name of freedom and democracy, while back home dissenters are smashed, gassed, busted, and censored. This is bullshit.

just sent a letter off to Mr. Knight 22.May.2003 10:27

AK

Hi,

Just sent a letter off. Thanks for the article.

To Bee, censorship (or the refusal of publishers to publish anything but the White House party line) was prevelant during Hitler's and McCarthy's days. So many people have been smeared, fired, and harassed only because they disagree with Bush (and other President's) policies. How many Hitlers do we have to live through before people understand what is truly going on?

I'd go back and say that the "founding fathers" of this country escaped this same censorship to establish the soveriegnty of the U.S., but then I think about what we did to the native Americans of this area...and then I see that the government has been on both ends of the suppressed and suppressors spectrum...and then I just want to hide out in the woods.

Bottom line...what Mr. Knight did was censorship...a key element in any fascist society. People have the right to kill someone, but that doesn't make it right.

You people are insane! 22.May.2003 11:58

Bee

Its not censorship because you can still publish the book, you just need to find another damn publisher, or do it yourself.

Besides, wouldn't it be more oppressive to force Color House Graphics to publisher your book against their will?

bee 22.May.2003 14:01

insanity

Bee said "insane"!!!! Tee hee hee!

Did you even read AK's post? Nobody here says Color House Graphics doesn't have the right to reject any book they like. However, it's extremely distasteful when folks who deal in communications choose to work with only one side of an issue. Is Clear Channel acting illegally when they only broadcast hateful material like Michael Savage? No. Are they doing a disservice to society? Yes. They're making it harder for people to get out their ideas and opinions. Discussion of a wide range of ideas and opinions is essential to a healthy democracy.

Why Americans are cretins. 22.May.2003 14:25

Janis Schmidt jlschmidt

To Bee,

Remember what the Canadians said? A nation of idiots led by a moron? Well, you seemed to have supplied the evidence.

http://www.lakotaperspectives.com
Box 4, Kyle, SD 57752

Small run publishing source 22.May.2003 15:54

anonymous

I just moved to Canada from Portland and would like to say there is a publisher here who I am sure would be interested in publishing the book, not because they are Canadian, they have a facility in the US too, but because they avoid making the decision based on content and have a goal of making authors dreams come true, and appear to be affordable as well.

see them at: www.trafford.com

Only guarantee of a free press is to own one yourself… 22.May.2003 22:33

Josh Eddings

A publisher / printer has the right to print / not print whatever they want - for personal or economic reasons. If you don't like their decision - tough. Find another press, do it yourself, and / or consider boycotting Color House Graphics, ask authors not to print there- ask people not to buy their books. That's your right!

Freedom to Print 28.May.2003 02:48

Da Goddess goddess21sd@yahoo.com

Any publisher has the right to decline any offered submission for any reason. If this publisher declined, that's well within their right. They're in it to make money.

Maybe you don't care for the reasons given, but that's how it is. It's not censorship. It's self-preservation.

Call Wil Wheaton. Or check out his website. He has his own company for people like you.

Wil Wheaton's publishing company 29.May.2003 20:17

MLAAF

Wil Wheaton's publishing company is Monolith Press - www.monolithpress.com
From their front page:
Monolith Press was founded on the idea that publication should not be limited by opportunity. So often in today's world, it's only work that is deemed to be "popular" or "mainstream" that makes it to the public. This often leaves innovative and alternative artists nowhere to turn. Eventually, "mainstream" becomes "mediocre" as no one is willing to take a chance on something that might stimulate more than the economy. We here at Monolith are dedicated to giving the unconventional a voice, and the world a chance to hear them


Sounds like it suits your situation.