Actually, That Poem Sounds Better in Chinese
Michael Derrick Hudson is an ordinary vanilla white dude from the Midwest who couldn’t get his poems published under his own name. Then he adopted a pen name, Yi-Fen Chou, and promptly got hisself anthologized as author of one of the Best American Poems of 2014:
Hudson, who is white, wrote in his bio for the anthology that he chose the Chinese-sounding nom de plume after “The Bees” was rejected by 40 different journals when submitted under his real name. He figured that the poem might have a better shot at publication if it was written by somebody else.
“If this indeed 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,” reads his unabashed explanation.
Anecdotally, Hudson’s calculation was correct. The literary journal Prairie Schooner, one of nine places to receive a submission from “Yi-Fen Chou,” accepted “The Bees” and three other poems for its Fall 2014 issue. The poem was referred to Best American Poetry, where Alexie came across it, and wound up in the collection, where Brooklyn-based writer and snarky Tumblr poetry-commentator Jim Behrle found it and posted it to his site.
Ah, but the Social Justice Warriors of the Diversity-Industrial Complex are not taking this lying down:
“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.”
But, um, Prof. Chang, Sherman Alexie, the (Native American) writer who chose the poem for the anthology, admitted that he gave it extra credit for being from an ethnic Chinese writer. You can’t have it both ways.
Actually, you can, and you will, because when it comes to diversity in academia, heads diversocrats win, tails fairness and merit lose.