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White Guy Finally Gets Published— as Yi-Fen Chou

Poem really by Michael Derrick Hudson of Fort Wayne, Ind.
By Jenn Gidman,  Newser Staff
Posted Sep 8, 2015 12:56 PM CDT
White Guy Finally Gets Published— as Yi-Fen Chou
He was a white-guy poet and they didn't even know it.   (Shutterstock)

(Newser) – "If there is such a thing as employing yellowface in poetry, this has to be it." That's what Korean-American blogger Phil Yu, known as Angry Asian Man, has to say about Michael Derrick Hudson, a white poet whose poem was chosen for The Best American Poetry 2015 anthology—written under the pen name Yi-Fen Chou, the Washington Post reports. Hudson admits his 20-line "The Bees, the Flowers, Jesus, Ancient Tigers, Poseidon, Adam and Eve" was rejected by 40 journals under his real name, so he took some liberties with his 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," he explains in his bio in the anthology. "As a strategy for 'placing' poems this has been quite successful for me." It's also a strategy that much of the literary community is tearing apart, calling his ploy "fraudulent" and "racist," per the Post.

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"He ... implies that minorities are published because we're minorities, not because of our work," Chapman University professor and poet Victoria Chang tells the Post. "That's just insulting." Author Sherman Alexie, who handpicked the poem to appear in the anthology, says in a blog post that he thought the author was Chinese-American and that he was "angry at the subterfuge" when Hudson revealed himself. But Alexie adds he decided to keep the poem in the anthology because he was "more amenable" to its content when he thought the author was Chinese-American and "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." Others aren't buying that reasoning, including Chang, who tells the Post, "If someone is fraudulently pretending they're someone else to benefit from a system that traditionally benefits them, that is not ethical." (JK Rowling used a fake name to write a crime novel.)

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