More on the poet who should never have been named

Yesterday, I posted about the Best American Poetry 2015 controversy, and in the comments, writer N. E. White (also a pseudonym, but one legitimately used) asked a smart question:

When I submit my work anywhere [under a pseudonym], I include my real name on the submission. I thought that was pretty standard practice. Is that not standard for poetry submissions. How did his identify remain secret for so long? He’d have to have lied at some point.

I wondered the same thing, and in my reply to that comment, I noted that the Hudson poem in question originally appeared in Prairie Schooner, along with a list of other prestigious journals in Hudson’s bio (Georgia Review, Gulf Coast, Iowa Review, etc). I noted at the time that I didn’t know which of those publications had published “Michael Derrick Hudson” and which published “Yi-Fen Chou,” and I wondered aloud how much complicity they had in perpetuating Hudson’s con. “It’s possible, of course, that he never revealed his motives to those magazines,” I concluded, “so maybe they aren’t at fault.”

Today, I might have found the answer, in the form of a BuzzFeed article Facebook-shared and commented on by BAP 2015 poet Saeed Jones.

The BuzzFeed article includes a lengthy (albeit fairly weak) response from BAP series editor David Lehman, and the comment contains this key quote: “We were in production [on BAP 2015] when we learned the author’s true identity. Prairie Schooner, the magazine where the poem appeared, was unaware that ‘Yi-Fen Chou’ is really ‘Michael Derrick Hudson.'”

Saeed Jones, in his Facebook post, either extrapolates or has more inside information (I’m assuming the latter) and says that this Best American selection is the first time Hudson is revealing his yellowface pseudonym. Jones also claims it was all part of an intentional ploy by Hudson to humiliate writers of color:

It says so much about American culture that people of color are set up to be humiliated at the PRECISE moment we achieve an honor. Hudson WAITED to reveal his hoax until he found out he’d been selected for the Best American Poetry by a writer of color. He wanted to humiliate poets of color who dared to believe, however briefly, America wanted US, our WHOLE selves.

Jones also speaks to the list of old-guard prestige publications, suggesting that many or all of them were “Michael Derrick Hudson” poems, without the pseudonym (which would definitely undermine Hudson’s own lame argument for why he used the pseudonym in the first place): “Michael Derrick Hudson has been published in esteemed journals well before BAP,” Jones writes on Facebook. “He wasn’t struggling; he was arrogant and entitled.”

Which returns me to my third suggestion in yesterday’s post — that editors think long and hard before ever publishing Hudson again. I made that suggestion hesitantly yesterday, but if today’s news and Jones’s accusations are true, then I would drop all hesitation. If Hudson not only adopted yellowface to subvert a (nonexistent) anti-white bias in publishing but also did so despite a long-successful run of publications under his own name and timed this hoax with the express intention of pulling a “gotcha” on the poetry world, well, I think we’ve all heard everything we ever need to hear from him again.

For more on this ongoing controversy, I’m including a few more links below:

Published by Samuel Snoek-Brown

I write fiction and teach college writing and literature. I'm the author of the story collection There Is No Other Way to Worship Them, the novel Hagridden, and the flash fiction chapbooks Box Cutters and Where There Is Ruin.

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