In his wonderful blog, poet Ted Hash-Berryman asks, Is Poetry Magazine Racist? He presents some simple statistical breakdowns of White vs. Non-White poets published in the magazine for the last 50 years. Some of the comments are the usual, defensive, false equivalency bullshit reaction that often follows a post such as this (where establishment is criticized) but one comment did ask the important question – What do you hope to achieve or accomplish in light of these findings? Hash-Berryman succinctly responds,
…I am trying to call attention to this absurd disparity and get people to start questioning why it’s happening. The poetry community purports to be accepting and free from the biases which poison the larger culture; these statistics prove otherwise, at least in the mainstream.
Ultimately, I want the Poetry Foundation/Poetry magazine to acknowledge their bias against non-white and female poets. Because of their stature, they have the opportunity to make a positive change which will reverberate throughout poetry publishing, which I can only assume is equally rife with this sort of discrimination. If they simply ignore the issue at hand rather than try to remedy it, they are essentially admitting their approval of the racial/gender biases displayed in the magazine’s choices.
Yes. acknowledging is the first step. And it’s a huge one. Look at how much resistance and push back is happening in just 15 comments to this article. I think there is a sad and complicated parallel here to the theatre and education world. Thanks, Dr. Hash-Berryman, for raising this issue in your literary community.
For more of Hash-Berryman’s musings and poetry, check out his blog. It’s pretty great.