The Censored Review
New York, Poetry/Prose Magazine, 1963
Bearden's scatological poem “The Desk is a Frozen Sea” appeared in the The Censored Review, edited by Ron Padgett. It came about after the administrators at Columbia University objected to Ron’s intention to include poems by Ted Berrigan and David Bearden in an issue of The Columbia Review, the university’s official literary magazine. Ted’s poem was deemed obscene for using the word “fuck,” and David's was considered to be unacceptably scatological for containing the words “shit” and “turd.”
Because of the ban, a furor erupted that was covered by the local press and Padgett was even interviewed on TV. The student editors of The Columbia Review resigned in protest and The Censored Review was printed by an off-campus social organization. Priced at 25 cents, it sold out all 800 copies immediately and was a prototype for the type of inexpensively produced chapbooks and magazines that would flourish in the 1960s and ‘70s as the “Mimeo Revolution.”
To learn more, read Columbia Daily Spectator's review on David Bearden's poem.
THE DESK IS A FROZEN SEA
& HE STRAINS TO SING ABOUT TIME & AGE
ALAS HIS HEART WILL BREAK IN THREE
& A LINE TRICKLES OUT ONTO THE PAGE:
He dozes & dreams for miles
of white sea-ice, which he must limp across
needing badly to ease his bowels
knotted like frozen clods. So soon he squats
in an embarrassing wind
baring himself, & saying, “Let me shet.
O God, why do you make me whine
in pain for any birth?” The place he sits
is terrible ice, & coldly
cut by the thin wind which does not sing.
So straining and hurt at that pole
he makes one tortured turd which tears & hangs
bleeding into the blank snow.
It lives! It is strung with throbbing black veins!
He touches it & whimpers: “O
God, this horror twined with my own membrane
is shame! Pain with no defense!
I take from my pack my critical knife
& sever this experience,
of which I’ll never speak, if I survive!”
* * *
Other contributors in this issue included:
- Ted Berrigan
- Ron Padgett
- Jonathan Cott
- Dick Gallup
- Nancy Ward