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Dead Poets Society: Writer cons top literary mag into running his lousy “Chinese” poem

September 11, 2015

My latest blog post for the Independent Women’s Forum:

One of the seventy-five alleged best American poems features a white guy in yellowface, and its almost as bad as this cover.

Bees ‘n’ Jesus verse by a supposed Chinese woman

It’s America’s funniest poetry story.

A white guy named Derrick Hudson writes a poem called “The Bees, the Flowers, Jesus, Ancient Tigers, Poseidon, Adam and Eve.” I’m laughing already, but it gets better when you actually read the poem. Here are some sample deathless lines:

Which leads me to wonder what it is

I’m doing here, peering through a lens at the thigh-pouches/ stuffed with pollen and the baffling intricacies

of stamen and pistil. Am I supposed to say something, add/ a soundtrack and voiceover?

I think he’s talking about a bee–although it could be Jesus. Love those “thigh-pouches.” They sound kind of sexy. You can read the whole poem here.

At any rate, Hudson sends his bees ‘n’ Jesus magnum opus to 40 different magazines. Turns out that even poetry editors don’t have their heads in the clouds all the time, so all 40 magazines turn the poem down. So the ever-inventive Hudson decides he’s having bad luck as a white male, so he decides to resubmit the poem as a Chinese woman, taking the pen name Yi Fen-Chou, which apparently belonged to a female high-school classmate of his back home in Indiana.

This time only nine magazines turn down “The Bees, the Flowers, Jesus, Ancient Tigers, Poseidon, Adam and Eve.” Even a fake Chinese woman-author didn’t seem to cut it for Hudson’s hapless lyrics.

But then, suddenly, Prairie Schooner accepts the poem! No, not the Prairie Schooner Steakhouse in Ogden, Utah, but Prairie Schooner, the ultra-prestigious literary magazine affiliated with the University of Nebraska whose contributors have included the likes of Eudora Welty, Tennessee Williams, Joyce Carol Oates, Truman Capote, and Raymond Carver. Not only that, but the Schooner includes “The Bees, the Flowers” in its TheBest American Poems 2015! You can’t beat that for a poetical honor.

Turns out that Prairie Schooner, wanting to be oh-so racially diverse, inducted as a guest editor for the volume, American Indian writer Sherman Alexie, author of Reservation Blues and The Lone Ranger and Tonto Fistfight in Heaven. Alexie used as one of his criteria for selecting poems for the volume…you guessed it: affirmative action….

Posted by Charlotte Allen

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