DC Trawler

White Dude Submits Poem To Anthology Using Asian Name, Poetry World Goes Crazy

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Roses are red / Violets are blue / Pretend to be Asian / And we’ll accept you

Susanna Kim, Good Morning America:

A white man named Michael Derrick Hudson claims that changing his name to “Yi-Fen Chou” has given him a leg up in the brutal world of published poetry. The revelation has sparked accusations of misrepresentation and racism, with comparisons to disgraced Rachel Dolezal.

Hudson, of Fort Wayne, Indiana, is a genealogist at the Allen County Public Library. His poem — “The Bees, the Flowers, Jesus, Ancient Tigers, Poseidon, Adam and Eve” — was selected for the 2015 edition of “Best American Poetry,” with the pseudonym that uses a surname of Chinese origins…

“There is a very short answer for my use of a nom de plume: 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 for me,” Hudson wrote in the contributors’ notes section of “The Best American Poetry 2015…”

The poetry scandal is described as having a “Rachel Dolezal-esque tangle of questions about identity, authenticity, political correctness and ‘affirmative action,'” according to The Washington Post…

So Hudson is being accused of “yellowface.” Am I allowed to use that term? Should I call it “the y-word”?

Now, I haven’t read this guy’s poem and I don’t plan to, because it’s a poem and I own a calendar. And I don’t think he should’ve lied about his race. But doesn’t this sort of reaction prove him exactly right? He assumed his work wasn’t being judged on its own merits because he was just another white guy. By only finding success (if that word even applies to the world of poetry) after pretending to be someone he wasn’t, and drawing the ire of people who think his race is the most important thing about him, he made his point quite… well, quite poetically.

Is he the racist? Or are the real racists the people who assume that art made by those of certain races is intrinsically more worthwhile?

Rhetorical question. Of course he’s the racist. After all, he’s white.

There once was a man from Ft. Wayne
Whose poems were thought too inane
But when the old fellow
Did claim to be yellow
His work caught on just like chow mein!

(See, because chow mein isn’t really from China either. Also, everything is racist.)