‘They Pretend To Be Us While Pretending We Don’t Exist’

The Michael Derrick Hudson debacle has been embarrassing. I love poetry and advocate for it to my friends and co-workers, but when this sort of garbage is what gets it into the news… well, it ain’t good.

I’ve been reading Jenny Zhang’s poetry collection, Dear Jenny, We Are All Find, so I perked up when I saw she’d responded to the poetry s–tstorm on BuzzFeed in an essay entitled, They Pretend To Be Us While Pretending We Don’t Exist.

Nicely puts to bed the lie of some kind of supposed advantage that poets of color have in getting published and respected. Shouldn’t need to be said, because it doesn’t take much looking to figure out that published poets in America are largely white and male.

At Stanford, a white girl (well-meaning, of course) wrote a story about a Chinese American woman living in modern-day San Francisco (this was the early 2000s) who wanted to marry a white guy but was forced into an arranged marriage with a Chinese man and it was called The Dim Sum of All Things. (Laugh now, cry later!) I don’t think I’m being unreasonable when I say the reality of that story was fucked and so was the fantasy. She got into a highly coveted advanced fiction writing class taught by a famous writer and I didn’t. The story I submitted was also about Chinese Americans living in modern-day America, but it didn’t involve arranged marriage or dim sum or sensuous descriptions of chopsticks. This didn’t mean the teacher made a wrong choice. He made a subjective choice.

 

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