Alternatively Titled: Liberal Victories, Radical Failures
In January of 2015, Javier Zamora, Marcelo Hernandez Castillo, and I started the Undocupoets Petition to protest first book contest discrimination. We launched an article online with Apogee Journal, displaying the names of 400+ poets, publishers, academics (who stand in solidarity with us). We stood up to ask that submission guidelines no longer read “proof of US citizenship or permanent residency.” Many people opened their ears and hearts. Many people supported us in this endeavor.
The Lambda Literary Foundation launched an interview with Wo Chan, VIDA launched an interview with Cristian Flores Garcia, and Fusion News interviewed Marcelo, Javier, and me. The news of these articles was covered thoroughly by the Poetry Foundation, Coldfront Magazine, and others (such as this wonderful blog post by Miguel Morales)… We were also inspired by the outreach of poets such as Jennifer Tamayo (who is currently working on another article about Undocupoets) and the words of Janine Joseph in her recent article Undocumented, and Riding Shotgun. Also, worthy of mention is the Undocupoets Petition Reading which was hosted at the Asian American Writer’s Workshop and drew a large audience. A lot of media was produced by, with, and for Undocupoets in these past few months.
In the coming months, I will also be helping to edit an issue of the Southern Humanities Review, dedicated to Undocumented Writers. We (as a collective of poets) are also submitting some panel proposals for various conferences at the moment. This is all to say–
All of the articles, activities, voices helped contribute to some major changes within the poetry community. Here are all of the publishers / organizations which have responded to the Undocupoets campaign–
CHANGES PUBLICLY ANNOUNCED
Letras Latinas(Andrés Montoya Poetry Prize, Red Hen Poetry Prize): Manuscripts must be of original poetry, in English, by one poet who resides in the United States.
Yale University Press (Yale Series of Younger Poets): The competition is open to emerging poets who have not previously published a book of poetry and who reside in the United States.
Poetry Foundation (Ruth Lilly and Dorothy Sargent Rosenberg Poetry Fellowships): Applicants must reside in the U.S.
Persea Books (Lexi Rudnitsky First Book Prize in Poetry): U.S. Citizen and/or currently residing in the United States.
Crab Orchard: All unpublished, original collections of poems written in English by a U.S. citizen, permanent resident, or person who has DACA/TPS status are eligible.
BOA Editions (A. Poulin Jr. Poetry Prize): Entrants must be a legal resident of the U.S. or have Deferred Action for Childhood Arrival (DACA) status, Temporary Protected Status (TPS), or Legal Permanent Status (LPS).
Academy of American Poets (Walt Whitman, etc.): U.S. Citizen / resident of the United States for a ten-year period prior to the submission deadline or January 1 of the prize year for those awards that have no application process, or Deferred Action for Childhood Arrival (DACA) status, Temporary Protected Status (TPS), Legal Permanent Status (LPS), or any subsequent categories designated by the U.S. authorities as conferring similar enhanced status upon non-citizens living in the United States.
CHANGES PRIVATELY ANNOUNCED
Sarabande Books (The Kathryn A. Morton Prize in Poetry): Sarah Gorham stated that all Undocupoets will be able to apply for subsequent contests. The new guideline wording will be announced when the next submission season opens.
Poetry Society of America (Chapbook Fellowship): Brett Fletcher Lauer stated that the guidelines for this contest would change from “US Resident” to “US citizens or any person currently residing within the US” during the summer of 2015; when new chapbook submissions are opened.
American Poetry Review (Honickman First Book Prize in Poetry): Elizabeth Escanlon stated that all Undocupoets will be able to apply for the subsequent contests. The language agreed upon is “Applicants must reside in US.” This announcement will be made public when the new call for submissions is announced.
National Poetry Series: Stephanie Stio stated that the organization will be making changes to their guidelines in consideration to undocumented poets shortly (within the next couple of weeks). The wording of these changes has not been decided yet.
The submission guidelines of many contests are more open than they used to be. We want to celebrate the work that our community has accomplished. We want to rejoice at the resilience and strength of all Undocupoets. We also want to acknowledge that the new guidelines are still not completely inclusive.
Marcelo, Javier, and I are fighting (in solidarity with our community) for the complete inclusion of all Undocupoets. We will not forget about our friends who have been deported from the US and are finding their ways back into the country. We will not forget about our friends who are living in the U.S. (without DACA, TPS, LPS). We are constantly thinking about all of the poets, people who are coming and will continue to come into this country undocumented. Our long-term goal for this project is still to completely eliminate any documentation check in poetry, asking for forms of government identification.
We want all Undocupoets to know that your words and thoughts are valuable. We want all Undocupoets to know that your struggle is seen, acknowledged. We want all Undocupoets to know that, if you are able to submit to one of these contests (or any other contest) then do so. We will fight with you, for you, if ever feel that you’re being silenced. Seriously. You are not alone. We are yours in this struggle. We celebrate your resistance and perseverance, above all else. We thank all of the Undocupoets who helped us make these HUGE changes in the poetry community. And we thank all of the publishers who have worked to make more inclusive guidelines. Gracias Gracias Gracias.