5 Controversial Poets

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Aram Saroyan

Saroyan’s one line, seven letter poem “lighght,” consisting solely of that single word in the middle of a blank piece of paper, was published in numerous literary journals, including The Chicago Review and The American Literary Anthology. Despite being published in the mid-60’s, “lighght” is still considered one of the most controversial poems in history, with many readers debating whether it should even be called a poem. Even Reagan spoke about it several times.


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Pablo Neruda

What many literary enthusiasts may not know about this famous Argentinian poet is that his controversial nature doesn’t arise solely from his political leanings or allegiance to Salvador Allende. In one of his own passages from Memoirs, Neruda graphically recounts how he raped a Tamil woman while he was a diplomat in Ceylon (now known as Sri Lanka).


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Siegfried Sassoon

An English poet, writer, and soldier, Sassoon continually issued anti-war declarations throughout World War II, and barely avoided a military trial for his actions by being sent to a psychiatric hospital for treatment. In 1918, he released a collection of anti-war poems called Counter-Attack to much controversy and acclaim.


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Amiri Baraka

The New Jersey Poet Laureate in August 2002, Baraka penned and recited his poem “Somebody Blew Up America,” which alleged that the Israelis and President Bush foresaw 9/11 before it happened. Many legislators and government officials called for his resignation as New Jersey Poet Laureate, but Baraka refused.


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Shel Silverstein

Silverstein’s books of children’s poetry A Light in the Attic and Where the Sidewalk Ends were banned from several elementary schools in several states on the basis of their “promotion” of “drug use, the occult, suicide, death, violence,” and even cannibalism. Despite these accusations, Silverstein’s works have sold millions of copies.


Contributing Editor


Meggie Royer is a writer and photographer from the Midwest who is currently majoring in Psychology at Macalester College. Her poems have previously appeared in Words Dance Magazine, The Harpoon Review, Melancholy Hyperbole, and more. She has won national medals for her poetry and a writing portfolio in the Scholastic Art and Writing Awards, and was the Macalester Honorable Mention recipient of the 2015 Academy of American Poets Student Poetry Prize.