An American Glavlit Change of Rules
A rose by any other name might smell just as sweet, but a poem about a rose by a non-white writer is obviously better than a poem by a white writer. Even if it's the same poem. This is a story about a white poet who made it all the way into Best American Poetry by using an Asian name.
—Daniel Greenfield, Frontpage magazine
After a poem of mine has been rejected a multitude of times under my real name, I put Yi-Fen’s name on it and send it out again. As a strategy for ‘placing’ poems this has been quite successful… The poem in question… was rejected under my real name forty times before I sent it out as Yi-Fen Chou (I keep detailed records). As Yi-Fen the poem was rejected nine times before Prairie Schooner took it. If indeed this is one of the best American poems of 2015, it took quite a bit of effort to get it into print, but I’m nothing if not persistent.
—Michael Derrick Hudson, poet who got a poem into The Best American Poetry
So, the scandalous news is out: the Best American Poetry guest editor, native-American Sherman Alexie, prefers race-based selection of poetry. In essence, Alexie overtly changed what had already been covertly changed regarding established-order Glavlit* rules. Diversity was now officially dictated into the rule book as Rule #2: poetry by whites is to be disfavored, unless authored by women. However, Rule #1 still remains intact: criticism of the literary established order is absolutely verboten.
Now, thanks to Hudson’s overt confession (see quote above), guest editor Alexie was forced to also confess and ended up presenting a rather rambling justification of the total lack of objectivity in the selection process: “and, hey, guess what? In paying more initial attention to Yi-Fen Chou's poem, I was also practicing a form of nepotism. I am a brown-skinned poet who gave a better chance to another supposed brown-skinned poet because of our brownness.” Racist? You bet!
Now, add to that aberrant comment: “I am a powerful literary figure and the pseudonym user [Hudson] is an unknown guy who has published maybe a dozen poems in his life.” Modest? Far from it! Alexie further notes: “If I'd kicked him out… he might have tried to go public with that news. And he would have been vilified and ignored. And I would have been praised. Trust me, I would much rather be getting praised by you poets than receiving the vilification I am getting now.” Well, at least that’s positive! Poets were actually decrying the poor fellow? Good!
“If I'd pulled the poem then I would have been denying that I was consciously and deliberately seeking to address past racial, cultural, social, and aesthetic injustices in the poetry world,” notes Alexie. But does American literature really need PC social-justice race-warrior indoctrinees determining what poetry is best and what isn’t? Hell, they’re overseeing just about everything else nowadays!
So, the scandal broke and in jumped white-privileged author Conor Friedersdorf, penning a reportage/analysis on the Alexie Affaire in the Atlantic and in full support—oh, but of course—of the avowed anti-white racist guest editor. “Sherman Alexie’s post offers a refreshing degree of candor,” he argues. “It is blessedly free of euphemism, jargon, or evasions.” Candor or rather forced candor? And sadly NOT “blessedly free” from a gross strain of vanity and vapid PC-diversity verbosity. The article becomes seriously tedious after Friedersdorf notes “there is an internally consistent integrity to his actions.” Yet internally consistent PC is hardly integrity. Reason is integrity. PC often and ineluctably conflicts with reason. Merit is reason; skin color is PC.
“At the very worst, he did the wrong thing. Who among us hasn’t?” noted Friedersdorf, apologizing for the guest editor. Yet how easily one could say the same about Hillary… and Nixon… and how about Hitler, Mao, and Stalin? Yes, they did the wrong thing. BUT who among us hasn’t? That constitutes a horseshit apologia. Period.
Thus from a reportage/analysis of a seeming literary insanity, manifest in the guest editor’s justification, Friedersdorf manifests his own seeming literary insanity of RACISM as the crux in poetry, as it’s become everywhere else in America. The white-privilege author jumps on the White-Privilege bandwagon: “It is the strongest, most widely persuasive premise from which to declare white nepotism immoral and intra-white solidarity irrational and unnecessary.” So, am I really privileged in the world of poetry because I'm white? Yet I’ve been shut out right and left by lit magnate mignons. Were they shutting me out because of my white skin color? If so, doesn’t that contradict the vacuous white-privilege notion? Well, from my perspective, it was not my skin color at all, but rather my vocal hardcore criticism against the instrinsic corruption in the literary establishment, as illustrated by the likes of Alexie. How can one possibly believe that a black or native-American mignon would have to stand behind someone like me to get published? Absurd!
So, what did the high-brow Alexie/Friedersdorf Affirmative Action, white privilege hogwash not address? What Friedersdorf failed to realize in his lengthy, social-justice-warrior article was the significance of the statement that “In the end, I chose each poem in the anthology because I love it.” In essence, one egocentric, autocrat, established-order, minority poet got to choose the “best” poems in America. It was the same egregiously clouded fact regarding the poet laureate of the U.S. Congress. One egocentric, autocrat librarian of Congress gets to choose the “great” American laureate. Was this not something that should be highlighted and in fact challenged? Apparently not!
Perhaps it was time David Lehman change the name of his autocratic anthology from Best American Poetry to Brown Lives Matter American Poetry. Sadly, it is always the call for diversity of skin color, not of ideas, and where inclusiveness always implies exclusion of certain ideas, especially tough criticism of the likes of Alexie and Friedersdorf. As Daniel Greenfield wisely (i.e., reasonably) noted: “When you artificially privilege people by race, then you reward work by race, not by merit and you encourage fraud. And you are responsible for that fraud. For all the talk of ‘entitlement’ and ‘white privilege’, the bottom line is a white guy pretending to be a minority gets a leg up.”
In conclusion, Friedershof writes: “With limited resources, he did the best he could to put together a great book of poems and to run what he regarded as a just process for doing so.” Friedershof thus opens wide and spews the widely-unchallenged fraud of implicit objectivity imbuing the term “great,” especially when applied to poetry... and racism has become a "just process."
*As for Glavlit, read Solzhenitsyn’s The Oak and the Calf. Vladimir Lakshin notes: “Glavlit is the Russian acronym for the body which censored all printed matter in the USSR. Each glavlit censor was supplied with a secret book of instructions, constantly amended and updated, which lists the topics that may not be mentioned in print."