Fuck the Poetry Police

Dan Sinykin in the Los Angeles Review of Books:

The game is rigged. It is rigged like capitalism is rigged. There is no puppet master, no conspiracy, only a field where advantages, to begin with, are distributed unequally. You can beat the long odds, but you have long odds to beat; a team of scholars has been working for almost 10 years to detail exactly how the rigging works. Juliana Spahr and Stephanie Young, later joined by Claire Grossman, began by noticing that poetry readings they regularly attended were held in “mainly white rooms.” They wanted to know why. To find out, they would need to widen their purview. The wider they went, the hungrier they became to understand who gets to succeed as a writer in the United States today. They wanted to reveal the system, to see all of it.

So, they collected data. Because prizes are a normative standard for success, they collected data on prizes — every prize since 1918 worth $10,000 or more in 2022 dollars. They recorded who won, what their gender and race were, where they earned their degrees, and who served as judges. Then they published what they found in a series of essays. What did they find?

More here.