Yesterday, we learned that Michael Derrick Hudson has a poem in Best American Poetry 2015 he submitted under the pen name Yi-Fen Chou. Ben al-Fowlkes sent me Sherman Alexie’s explanation of how that happened, which I like as much as anything he’s written in years. Alexie wisely begins from his own perspective as a writer, which is the familiar mix of high ideals, envy, and conspiracy theory. I find contest judges are unfairly biased in favor of writers who aren’t me. Alexie feels about the same way, albeit for better reasons than I do, and when he becomes guest editor of BAP 2015 he resolves to judge fairly. He also resolves to uphold Rule #5:
Rule #5: I will pay close attention to the poets and poems that have been underrepresented in the past. So that means I will carefully look for great poems by women and people of color. [snip]
Enter Yi-Fen Chou. Alexie read his poem carefully and thought it was great. After he picked it for the anthology and Michael Derrick Hudson unmasked himself, Alexie was enraged. Then he read the poem again and liked it just as much, so it stayed in.