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September 08, 2015

White Dude Couldn't Get His Poem Published Anywhere, So He Resubmits It Under Name Yi-Fen Chou; Not Only Is It Published, But It's Now Being Collected in Book of America's Best Poems, 2015

A lot of issues here.

The left is only interested in talking about a couple of them, though.

The guy's real name is Hudson.

Hudson’s critics said the literary bait-and-switch was fraudulent, racist and fundamentally different from Charlotte Bronte publishing "Jane Eyre" under the name Currer Bell.

"When you're doing this from a position of entitlement, you're appropriating an ethnic identity that’s one, imaginary, and two, doesn't have access to the literary world," poet and Chapman University professor Victoria Chang told The Washington Post. "And it diminishes categorically all of our accomplishments. He sort of implies that minorities are published because we’re minorities, not because of our work. That's just insulting because it strips everything we’ve worked so hard for."

Phil Yu, the blogger better known as Angry Asian Man, wrote "if there is such a thing as employing yellowface in poetry, this has to be it."

But if this poem was serially rejected when it was submitted under a White Guy Name, only to be then published and feted as one of the best poems of the year under a Chinese Name, then that undermines this claim that minorities don't have some "entitlement" and special access here.

That's one of the most emotional tensions of Affirmative Action: the left pushes for it, but then wants to pretend no one at all has ever benefited from it (that is, that no one ever got special consideration for it).

The only time it can be acknowledged that minorities get a boost from Affirmative Action is when white liberals festoon each other with awards for boosting minorities at their various awards-giving ceremonies.

But only white liberals giving another white liberal a prize can admit that Affirmative Action has any actual beneficiaries; for anyone to acknowledge this is racist.

One little interesting thing: The editor of the volume is keeping the poem in, despite the controversy, reasoning that a poem stands or falls on its own merits, and if the acknowledgment of excellence was suddenly withdrawn, it would raise a lot of questions about the poetry community's standards.

I find this kind of thing interesting, how one's estimation of a work of art can change so much when one finds out that one's understanding of who wrote it is suddenly challenged.

It's not supposed to matter who wrote something -- but I think actually it does, more than even non-SJWs admit.

The Poem: Via Jazz Shaw, here's part of the poem:

Huh! That bumblebee looks ridiculous staggering its way

across those blue flowers, the ones I can never
remember the name of. Do you know the old engineer's

joke: that, theoretically, bees can't fly? But they look so

perfect together, like Absolute Purpose incarnate: one bee
plus one blue flower equals about a billion

years of symbiosis. Which leads me to wonder what it is

I'm doing here, peering through a lens at the thigh-pouches
stuffed with pollen and the baffling intricacies

of stamen and pistil. Am I supposed to say something, add
a soundtrack and voiceover?

Well I don't think that's very good at all. It's got a touch of I Love Science! (TM) to it, plus some annoying authorial interjections that sound like Carrie in Sex and the City adding her stupid observations to everything. In fact, he himself lampshades the voiceover by asking if he's supposed to add a voiceover to his experience.

Answer: You probably shouldn't. You know, the poem itself is your reflection upon your experience; you shouldn't add reflections upon your experience into the reflection upon your experience.

"Thigh-pouches" strikes me both as trying too hard and not trying hard enough.

It puts a powerful image in my mind: the image of a poet looking way too pleased with himself for shabby sophomore-level work.

So I'd be kind of surprised if this unremarkable poem did not get some extra points for coming from A Historically Excluded Minority Who Probably Comes From a Different Poetry-Tradition Than We In the West Do So We Can't Fully Appreciate The Dumb Crap He Says.

In fact, the editor of the Best American Poetry volume admits that, noting that he was "more amenable" to this terrible, terrible poem due to his misbelief that a Chinese guy had written it.

Frankly, I see far better Chinese poetry in Chinese restaurant menu item naming.

I like imagist poetry, but this seems like a really lazy stab at it. Instead of describing the blue flowers, he just calls them "blue," and says he always forgets what they're called. That last bit seems to me just a cutesy Carrie Bradshaw look at me instead of the flowers bit of laziness. What are their blooms like? Are they bells, little balls, splays of open petals?

The only description of the bees is "staggering" and "thigh-pouches." "Staggering" is pretty lazy too, since bees are frequently described as "drunkenly stumbling" from flower to flower.

Pretty SOP Bee Imagery, you know.

Everything else is about the poet himself, what he can and can't remember and jokes he's heard but doesn't quite relate.

Just not very good at all.

digg this
posted by Ace at 03:32 PM

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