Karina White

Submitted by on Oct 19, 2015

White Indiana poet admits he used Chinese pen name to boost his chances of being published in Best American Poetry series 

By Anneta Konstantinides For Dailymail.com 06:19 09 Sep 2015, updated 12:35 09 Sep 2015

  • Michael Derrick Hudson’s poem was published in this year’s Best American Poetry anthology under the name ‘Yi-Fen Chu’ 
  • Hudson explained that whenever one of his poems is rejected multiple times, he then uses the pseudonym – and said he was often successful
  • The poet said his poem featured in the anthology had been rejected 40 times under his real name, and only 9 with his fake identity 
  • Sherman Alexie, the journal’s guest editor, said he only knew Hudson’s real name after the poem was already chosen
  • Alexie, who is Native American, said he gave the poem a close reading specifically because it had a Chinese name attached
  • He refused to remove the poem because he said doing so would mean he ‘only chose poems based on identity’ and not because he loved them

A white Indiana poet has caused an uproar after admitting he submitted poems under a Chinese pseudonym because he believed it would increase his chances of getting published.

Michael Derrick Hudson’s poem The Bees, the Flowers, Jesus, Ancient Tigers, Poseidon, Adam and Eve was published in this year’s Best American Poetry anthology.

Except it wasn’t Hudson’s name that had appeared on the poem, but that of Yi-Fen Chu.

After finding out his poem was selected, Hudson informed Sherman Alexie, the guest editor of the collection, of his true identity.

Michael Derrick Hudson, a poet from Indiana, caused an uproar after admitting he has submitted poems under a Chinese pseudonym Yi-Fen Chu, because he believed it would increase his chances of getting published

And, for his contributor biography for the anthology. Hudson revealed that this was hardly the first time he had submitted under the fake name.

‘There is a very short answer for my use of a nom de plume,’ he writes.

‘After a poem of mine has been rejected a multitude of times under my real name, I put Yi-Fen’s name on it and send it out again.’

‘As a strategy for “placing”poems this has been quite successful for me,” Hudson wrote in the contributors’ notes section of”The Best American Poetry 2015.”

Hudson, who is a genealogist at the Allen County Public Library, went on to explain that the poem in question had been rejected 40 times by journals under his own name, according to the Washington Post .

When he sent it out as Yi-Fen Chu, Hudson writes, it was rejected nine times before it was published in the Prairie Schooner journal and referred to Best American Poetry.

‘If indeed this is one of the best American poems of 2015,’ Hudson writes, ‘it took quite a bit of effort to get it into print, but I’m nothing if not persistent.’

Phil Yu, who writes the blog Angry Asian Man. said the act was akin to yellowface.

‘Of course, thanks to his s***** racist pen name, now we’re going to have editors raising an eye at the work of every poet with an Asian-sounding name that comes their way,’ he wrote.

Derrick’s poem The Bees, the Flowers, Jesus, Ancient Tigers, Poseidon, Adam and Eve, made it to the Best American Poetry’s anthology after it was published in another journal under the fake name

Alexie, who said he rejected at least a thousands poems before narrowing them down to the chosen 75, decided not to pull the poem from the anthology, even after finding out Hudson’s real identity.

In a detailed explanation regarding his choice, Alexie first told readers that one of the main rules he created for himself as this year’s guest editor was to ‘pay close attention to the poets and poems that have been underrepresented in the past’, including those by women and people of color.

Alexie said he did not read any biographies or contributor notes that came with the poems, nor did he do any internet searches when he came upon an author’s name.

The editor then admitted that, along with The Bees, the Flowers, Jesus, Ancient Tigers, Poseidon, Adam and Eve long title, he was drawn to the poet’s Chinese name.

‘As part of my mission to pay more attention to underrepresented poets and to writers I’d never read, I gave this particular poem a close reading,’ said Alexie.

‘And I found it to be a compelling work. In rereading the poem, I still found it to be compelling.’

Alexie said he was especially struck that the poem, despite it’s supposed Chinese author, contained no ‘over or covert Chinese influences or identity’.

‘I’d briefly wondered about the life story of Chinese American poet who would be compelled to write a poem with such overt and affectionate European classical and Christian imagery,’ he said.

‘Bluntly stated, I was more amenable to the poem because I thought the author was Chinese American.’

Alexie, who is Native American, admitted that he was practicing a form of ‘racial nepotism’, and said he was ‘practicing a form of literary justice that can look like injustice from a different angle.’

The editor said that if he pulled the poem, it would have been denying that he deliberately had been trying to ‘address past racial, cultural, social and aesthetic injustices in the poetry world.’

And while he knew he was also committing an injustice against both poets of color and Asian poets in particular, Alexie said removing Hudson’s poem would have been a larger injustice.

‘It would have implied,’ he said, ‘that I chose poems based only on identity.’

“But that’s not what happened,” he continued. “In the end, I chose each poem in the anthology because I love it. And to deny my love for any of them is to deny my love for all of them.’

After finding out his poem was selected, Hudson informed Sherman Alexie (pictured), the guest editor of the collection, of his true identity. Alexie decided not to pull the poem, upsetting many writers and fans Alexie admitted he had been drawn to Derrick’s poem because the author was supposedly Chinese and said he been deliberately trying to ‘address past racial, cultural, social and aesthetic injustices in the poetry world’

Karina WhiteKarina White
Karina WhiteKarina White
Karina WhiteKarina White

Leave a Comment