Never miss a post
Your email address:*
Please enter all required fields
Correct invalid entries


« Tales of the Seventies: Old Johnny Herald [by Alan Ziegler] | Main | Lera Auerbach – excessive ease of aesthetic discovery [by Ilona Oltusk] »

September 07, 2015


I am a white poet born in welfare lines to a single mother. I was poorer than my any of my friends: black, brown or white. I say all that because I represent the complexities of concepts formed around "race" by both white folk and people of color. The reality is that white privilege over simplifies a growing problem: generalizations of poor people, brown or white. Why do I say all this? Because I see the growing trend: racism as perpetuated by white people toward people of color and reverse racism perpetuated by people of color. Reverse racism has grossly been attacked by political groups centered around "whiteness." But that's all it is: politics. A manipulation for political gain. This isn't a rant denying white privilege. I know I had a leg up because of the skin color I never asked for. I was born with it. Sometimes seemingly trapped by it, as most my life my struggles were belittled and denied by people of color. But that doesn't define me. I am who I am. My life adds to the dialogue. And I'm thankful for that. When it comes to poetry, I love and appreciate a diverse network of poets, from Terrance Hayes to Charles Simic to Naomi Shihab Nye to Phil Levine or Matt Rassmussen. Each of them brings an individual flare to the art I adore.It's sad to think I get glanced over because of my skin color. But that seems to be the great human condition.

Why don't we just publish the best poetry? Blind reading is the only bullet proof way to do that.

Why don't we just select the best poems, white black or brown? Read the poems apart from names. And if one year it's 70% white men and the next year 67% women and the next year 81% people of color, who cares. If it's an intentional book centered around political equalization, then don't call Best American Poetry. Call it Book of Poems Aimed at Confronting White Privilege.

...I take the publication of Best American Poetry very fucking seriously. ..there was no doubt that I would pull that fucking poem... And this from a person who would bore you to tears bragging how superior his command to the English language is.

I think a helping hand based on a person's background (whether is is income, broken family, education, etc) is great. On the other hand, affirmative action based solely on a person's race has the underlying racist thinking that all members of a particular race are inherently inferior. The poem isn't very good for a white person; but for an Asian, it is real good. Sort of like getting excited because your dog learned to shake hands.

I'm impressed that Alexie went to such great lengths to try to assemble a collection that reflects diverse parts of the poetry world (race/gender etc. but also internet vs. print). I think the editor is in a tough place here but retroactively rejecting the piece seems like it would be stooping to the level of the poet. Part of the difficulty lies in the fact that pseudonyms are generally acceptable, although I agree with others that this was certainly a misuse.

I would just like to post this video if i may talking about this all situation and giving it some(in my opinion) some interesting perspective.

I don't know the ethnicity of the video creator so unfortunate(for some people) you would not be able to apply your own "positive" prejudices, but you're free to try.

To the author of the article, you did the right thing, you chose art over identity politics, but I guess you know that already. A refreshing sight nowadays if i must say.

>"Why don't we just select the best poems, white black or brown?"

Or why not submit the poems anonymously? I tell you why, because that might result in "too many whites" or "too few person of certain ethnicity", and that unfortunately would be very problematic to a lot of people. This is no longer about art, it's about identity politics, imagine for a second if scientific discoveries where moderated in this manner.

Also, you want a real minority? See the 1% that are not professors, sould there be a quota for that as well?

If bias leads to a woman being ignored for being female, so she submits under a man's name, what's the big deal? If a man uses a woman's name, what's the big deal? We throw our hats in the ring and hope.

Imagine if someone wrote in a style that parroted what is popular but was completely unlike his or her "true" style? Would that be a scandal?

I don't blame anyone for trying to get published.

That's a really long piece just to admit that you're reinforcing institutional racism.

At least you got to paint yourself both as a hero fighting aesthetic injustices of the past and also as an apathetic everyman throwing your hands up because "Everyone's racist, so I can be too!"

It's hard to accept that in fighting racism, identity politics has become racism. As more sunlight disinfects instances like this, more people will realize that singling someone out solely based on the color of their skin or the vowels in their name is wrong. Period.

The words make a great poem, not the poet's biography.

I'm far more fascinated by 99% are professors; what do the one percenters do?

Government paid? LOL

Privilege issues are rendered nonsensical without the concept of intersectionality.

Intersectionality explains how socioeconomic underprivilege serves to negate aspects of racial privilege, perhaps not in all areas at all times, but certainly poses considerable disadvantages. I believe affirmative action programs and policies should attempt to ameliorate in the same way that similar programs exist on the basis of sex and gender, race and ethnicity, etc.

It is a brilliant post and I am so impressed by its honesty that I'm almost tempted to do something I haven't done in 40 years, read a poem:)

An exquisite post. Deceit has a peculiar way of ... well ... deceiving. An Anthology shall be for all the world to see, as it should, and so I relish the decision Alexie made. Thank goodness it remains far more plausible to steal racial or ethic identity than to be a box-checking poet. I mean, with poetry, a box checker may have to prove it, unlike checking the respective "Asian", "Native American", or "Christian" box, for examples. My biggest hope is that in a thousand years, after our own epoch-centric Armageddon, the next civilization will unearth a collection of Alexie tales and call them the Old Testament.

After reading Alexie's apology and the many comments on it, I am glad one person quoted lines from Yi-Fen's poem. If the remainder of the poem has the quality of those lines, it is probable that Alexie chose a second-rate poem. It is unfortunate that most people who commented did not engage the claim Alexie made regarding "nepotism." I would have chosen the word "incest" to identify the vulgarity that is often present in applauding "the aesthetic expression of ideas."

Did anybody read this poem? It's a joke. This is some kind of joke. Rob Roberts quoted it below. Here it is:

The Colosseum sprouts and blooms with leftover seeds
pooped by ancient tigers. Poseidon diddled

Philomel in the warm slap of this ankle-deep surf to the dying
stings of a thousand jellyfish. There, probably,

atop yonder scraggly hillock, Adam should’ve said no to Eve.

Oh fat whale with the flatulent spout! Musclehead marbled
to the bone. How many times must this cold fish

get gaffed, flensed, and rendered? Avast!"

---Are you kidding me? BEST AMERICAN???

Response to art is subjective. So of course Rob Roberts owns the nail factory, because he's hitting a nail of his own creation.

Why did you post the end of the poem that was selected and the beginning of a completely separate one while implying that the above is the entire poem?

Cut and paste mistake probably, by Rob roberts (below)

Both of you should read this guy's poetry before the discussion goes any further. There is a whole stack of them at Project Muse.


You've let one poem run into another--the original poem ends on 'Eve', which may not fix all its problems, but definitely improves it over the version you posted.

I only enter blind poetry contests. I am a female with a name most consider male and people are often thrown by the combination of a female voice and a male name. I really don't understand why the BAP do not use a blind entry for their selecting editors. When I have judged blind competitions I get the title of the work, the work itself, and a numerical code to identify the author. Judging from the poem, without the fake name it would have only been skimmed and there would be nothing to report now except the poetry.

Perhaps BAP is wedded to the nepotism of Alexie's Rule #5: "I will pay close attention to the poets and poems that have been underrepresented in the past. So that means I will carefully look for great poems by women and people of color. And for great poems by younger, less established poets. And for great poems by older poets who haven't been previously lauded. And for great poems that use rhyme, meter, and traditional forms."

"And I realized that I hadn't been fooled by anything obvious."

True enough. What you were fooled by were your mind parasites that you've carried inside you for years. You were colonized at a young age, though, so no blame.

The comments to this entry are closed.

Best American Poetry Web ad3
click image to order your copy
BAP ad
"Lively and affectionate" Publishers Weekly


I left it
on when I
left the house
for the pleasure
of coming back
ten hours later
to the greatness
of Teddy Wilson
"After You've Gone"
on the piano
in the corner
of the bedroom
as I enter
in the dark

from New and Selected Poems by David Lehman

Click image to order


  • StatCounter