Full Title: “Actual Asian poets use #WhitePenName to respond to poetry controversy (via L.A. Times)”
What’s more likely to get your poem published: a “white” name or a Chinese one?
The Asian American Writers’ Workshop has responded to the controversy around “Chinese” poet “Yi-Fen Chou” (actually Michael Derrick Hudson, who is white) with satire. The organization started the #WhitePenName hashtag and encouraged fellow writers of color to imagine what benefits they could get if they used a stereotypically “white” pen name.
They even created a “White Pen Name Generator.” Visit the site and you will be given your very own parody name that looks and sounds “white” (mine is “Donald Trump Reed.”)
The controversy started when Hudson, as Yi-Fen Chou, was included in the “Best American Poetry 2015” anthology, which was published this week and revealed the deception.
Hudson says he submitted the poem to 40 publications and couldn’t get accepted. But under the Chinese name “Yi-Fen Chou,” his poem was published with relative ease, finding a home after nine submissions at the literary journal Prairie Schooner and then making the cut for the anthology.
“Best American Poetry 2015” guest editor Sherman Alexie, who is Native American, explained that he was more amenable to the poem because he thought the author was Chinese. But even after he realized the true identity of the author, he ultimately decided to keep the poem in the collection, as he found it to be a good one.