POLITICIZATION OF LITERATURE LEAVES EVERYONE CLUELESS
OR, THE IMPLOSION OF ESTABLISHED LITERATURE CONTINUES
LIVE BY politics, die by politics seems to be the new credo of today’s literary world. A brief scandal taking place the past days has been a poem, “How To” by Anders Carlson-Wee appearing in The Nation magazine. The poem was meant to be progressive, talking about the homeless and other downtrodden people. It ended up offending readers. The Nation has added an apology. More a confession than apology:
We made a serious mistake by choosing to publish the poem . . . We are sorry for the pain we have caused to many communities . . .we are listening and we are working . . . we know the onus on change is on us . . . we need to step back and look at not only our editing process, but at ourselves as editors.
No word yet as to whether the Nation editors have entered a re-education camp.
WHAT’S the story behind the story?
Anders is trying to get in step with the zeitgeist– in so doing, has inadvertently upset people he was attempting to portray. Maybe he should’ve skipped the political stance to begin with– except he’s benefited greatly from being political in his poetry. He has a book out from New York publisher W.W. Norton. There’s also this from his bio:
His work has appeared in BuzzFeed, The Nation, Tin House, Kenyon Review, Ploughshares, Poetry Daily, The Sun, and The Best American Nonrequired Reading. His debut chapbook, Dynamite, won the Frost Place Chapbook Prize. He has received fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts, the McKnight Foundation, Bread Loaf, and the Sewanee Writers’ Conference. He is codirector of the award-winning poetry film Riding the Highline and winner of Ninth Letter’s Poetry Award, Blue Mesa Review’s Poetry Prize, New Delta Review’s Editors’ Choice Prize, and the 2017 Poetry International Prize.
ONE CAN SURMISE that The Nation decided to publish Carlson-Wee’s poem based in part on its P.C. politics, but also because its author is apparently one of the up-and-comers of the establishment poetry scene.
A taste of where Anders is coming from as a poet is given in a long, narcissistic interview Anders and his poet brother, Kai Carlson-Wee, a professor at Stanford (second photo) did with 32poems.com. There’s this revealing quote from Anders:
Our parents would often encourage us to think beyond the strictures of gender, class, age, religion, etc. and I think we grew up with a sense that in order to tell our own stories, we needed to tell the stories of others. One didn’t exist without the other.
Do you buy that?
And this one:
I wholeheartedly agree that road narratives of women and POC are severely lacking in pop culture and literature—while in reality, these stories are abundant, alive, and wild. It’s not that the stories don’t exist, it’s that they’re silenced and underrepresented. Travel narratives are universal in human storytelling, and they belong to everyone. And while white male travel narratives are drastically overemphasized–
Uh, dude, if you truly believe that, why are you writing in the voice of women and POC??
Anders is confused, clearly (as even his photo shows), but the nonstop indoctrination he’s been subjected to– beginning from his Lutheran-minister Minnesota liberal parents– is most to blame.
DO WE see a parallel with the Junot Diaz controversy?
As I said in our second post on that complicated issue, Diaz has himself been as progressively political as possible. In an ever-changing literary scene looking for culprits, not properly political enough.
-Karl Wenclas for New Pop Lit NEWS