Monday, June 29, 2020

The Poetry Foundation

After The Poetry Foundation issued a tepid statement of support for Black Lives Matter, poets banded together and decided the organization needed change. It didn't really seem to care about Black people much before the protests. In fact, they never tried to make any moves of equality at all (besides publishing some people in the magazine). A petition was passed around, social media posts were made, and two people at the top of the foundation resigned (without designated replacements).

Almost everyone in positions of power at the foundation are white.

People who were great supporters of the foundation (or their prestigious magazine) just the week before came out against it. There are now calls for the magazine's editor to step down because of racist pieces published. I guess some people are starting to awaken.
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I used to long to be in Poetry, one of the most well-known literary magazines in the world. Careers are launched on that rocket! It was one of the highest honors I could possibly receive in my life.

I haven't submitted to them in years.

They publish racist poems and imagery. They have accepted (and promoted) the work of a literal fascist. It happens more than people realize. I understand a publication letting someone problematic slip through, especially a swamped publication without resources. But, they have more than enough people to vet contributors... if they actually cared or thought it was a concern. (I don't want to get into a discussion about free speech and bigotry, not today.)

At one point, Poetry was to have a special trans issue (not everyone was thrilled about being relegated to a one-off publication). The guest editor they brought in went on a tirade of "horrible, worn-out" tropes in trans poetics. He was quite unkind and, to my knowledge, is not transgender. It hurt a lot of poets in the trans community and the issue was canned.
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There are still a lot of people defending The Poetry Foundation and their magazine because good things have come out of it. They provide money to worthy programs. They have boosted careers of some incredible poets. But, few want the foundation to end, despite what some doomsdayers cry. People want change. They seek accountability in an off-the-rails world. They desire an equal field.

Equality that raises everyone to the same level? That's pure poetry.

1 comment:

  1. Dang. I'm disappointed to hear that. I'm much more distant from the poetry world than I was when I was younger and wrote more of it, but I still read it! I guess it makes sense that poetry even more than other literary arts would be political, given the emotional seat of the work, but I'm used to thinking of poets as forward thinking and avant-garde, not stodgy misanthropes living in a bygone era.

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