Corinne Segal at PBS:
When Michael Derrick Hudson had his poem “The Bees, the Flowers, Jesus, Ancient Tigers, Poseidon, Adam and Eve” rejected 40 times, he decided to try a different approach. He submitted it under the name “Yi-Fen Chou.”
The poem was rejected nine more times. But then it ended up in front of Native American writer Sherman Alexie, the editor of this year’s “The Best American Poetry” anthology. Among the hundreds of poems Alexie read, Hudson’s poem stood out to him for its unique title and the fact that a Chinese poet had written a poem with “affectionate European classical and Christian imagery,” he wrote.
When Hudson received word that his poem had been chosen, he contacted Alexie to tell him he is not, in fact, the Chinese woman that his pseudonym seemed to suggest. Instead, he is a white poet based in Fort Wayne, Indiana, working at the Genealogy Center of the Allen County Public Library.
At this point, Alexie faced a difficult choice, he wrote in a lengthy blog post. On one hand, the poem was submitted under false pretenses; Alexie could have left it out of the anthology and avoided embarrassment and criticism.
But to do so would have implied that Alexie “only chose poems based on identity,” he wrote. Ultimately, he considered it the most “honest” choice to include the poem with a full disclosure of what had happened.