So all my Asian-American friends have been a-twitter (and a-Tumblr) about Yi-Fen Chou, neé Michael Derrick Hudson, the dude who got himself published in “The Best American Poetry 2015“ by submitting it under a pseudonym that presented himself as a Chinese-American woman (though whether he even knew he was using a feminine name is questionable).
Sherman Alexie, the Native American literary heavyweight guest editor who picked Hudson’s “The Bees, the Flowers, Jesus, Ancient Tigers, Poseidon, Adam and Eve” posted a complex sorry-not-sorry in response to the kerfuffle over Yi-Fen Chou’s self-outing as a white dude in poetic yellowface. I don’t fully agree with Alexie that disqualifying the poem over this deception would make him a hypocrite or turn his selection process, which he goes into in admirable detail, into pure identity politics. I also, like many snarky commentators who’ve weighed in on this subject, don’t think “The Bees, etc.” is a particularly good poem.
I also think, along with many of my fellow commentators, that Mr. Hudson, whose justification for the “extradiegetic” “persona” of the Yi-Fen Chou identity is that it helps get him published thanks to affirmative action, comes off as an asshole. And certainly, submitting a poem 40 times under one name, then continuing to submit it under a different name and getting accepted on the 49th try doesn’t prove anything,as many have pointed out. All it really shows is the writer’s cliché that you’re only likely to get an acceptance sometime after you’ve gotten enough rejections to want to give up.