Thursday, September 10, 2015

Why I Couldn't Care Any Less About The Best American Poetry 2015 "Controversy"

I haven't gotten my copy on The Best American Poetry 2015, so I don't much to say about the current controversy where a white man pretended to be an Asian man in order to be published in an American poetry journal. What I do remember is that the editorial process and contributor make-up of the Best American Poetry anthology series has changed quite a bit over the past decade or so. When the series began in 1988 all the editors were older white men and women noted for being part of the academic orthodoxy and selecting poetry for the anthology by similar poets. In fact, they went so far as to continue publishing their dead friends years, or even decades after they were gone instead of really delving into the America poetry scene and finding younger and more diverse voices.


Best American Poetry 1988-2014
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None of this makes any real difference to me because being a career small press poet I have about as much chance of ever appearing in an anthology like this as I do of playing quarterback for the Dallas Cowboys. These are the games people we make fun of play. assholes who have their snout far into the public trough their asses have no idea their crack is showing. The poetry isn't all that great, but the politics ensure whoever edits the series will just publish a certain standard of poetry. In this case Sherman Alexie was the yearly editor and he admits he was just enamored by the title and Chinese sounding name of this entry. 

With this poet exists or not seems irrelevant. I haven't even read the poem yet, and probably won't until I order my copy on Ebay as I do every year now. I actually don't even really have an opinion about this, I'm just trying to get to 500 words and get on with my day of preparing for fantasy football season. I don't like poets. I don't think anyone does, really. And they're right. Because this is the type of petty garbage Plato predicted poets would argue over if they were ever in charge of anything

Unfortunately for readers, there are still a few things a few poets are in charge of. Namely public grants, funding, a few literary journals of note, and some academic writing programs. That's not a lot, and we should all be grateful they don't have any more power than that, but it's just enough power to ruin the perception of poetry the typical non-reader of poetry has about all poetry being written in America at any one time.

Sherman Alexie is a poet who has come closest to being a small press editor in the history of the series. I don't like him, but only because I saw once on his website he told his fans to leave him alone because he was too busy to respond to their questions. Kind of a jerkoff thing to do, but maybe he was just having a bad day. I was running a restaurant at that time, working seventy hours a week, and I never would have dreamed of treating a customer or a fan (if I had one) that way. To each his own. But that's a good example of why most people have a negative opinion of poets, and why they're mostly right in my opinion and experience.

I wanted to say something about race, gender, politics, age, and how all of these things enter into the politics of publishing an anthology like The Best American Poetry, but I don't really give much of a shit. Fight it out over the slop they pour in the trough all you want, I'm happy knowing I'll never be part of that grotesque spectacle of relying on the leavings of others.


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