Something ugly got American poetry into international headlines this week. The annual Best American Poetry anthology published, and it turns out one included poet, Michael Derrick Hudson, published his poem under a false Chinese name, Yi-Fen Chou, claiming, “As a strategy for ‘placing’ poems this has been quite successful for me.”
The literary community went ballistic, as the New York Times, the Guardian, and others reported. The editor of this year’s volume (a different famous poet picks each year’s poems with the help of series editor David Lehman), Serman Alexie, penned a public response expressing his own frustration over the fraud as well as explaining his decision to keep the poem in the book, and also wrote a letter to all the other included poets expressing his regrets at the uproar. Then, the controversy deepened when the family of a student from the same high school as Hudson came forward saying Hudson likely based his nome de plume on the actual Yi-Fen Chou, calling for Hudson to cease using the name. There was also an NPR piece featuring the executive director of the Asian American Writers' Workshop. Writer Jenny Zhang penned a long essay for BuzzFeed on the wider implications of this issue. We can only hope that this mess doesn’t overshadow the achievement of the other anthologized poets.
In happier news, Buzzfeed is sponsoring a new fellowship for creative writers. The four-month fellowship will focus on training writers in personal essay writing, cultural reportage, and profiles, with a focus on training creative writers to earn money and freelancers and find success in the current media landscape. It comes with a stipend of $12,000.
The Academy of American Poets also announced the winners of its annual awards this week. Honorees include poets Joy Harjo, Marie Howe, and others.