lest we forget
I have a lot of stuff for you today—I’ve been trying to read more, and I’ve been organizing my email and old documents et cetera et cetera, so I’m sharing a lot of stuff here to keep an archive of everything.
Here’s what’s in this newsletter:
Okay, so part of going through my email, trying to minimize my use of storage, included seeing old emails exchanged between me & my colleagues in the past.
It reminded me of the ~poetry drama~ that has occurred in the last few years.
As someone who reads voraciously—and who gets poems’ lines stuck in her head, sometimes for years at a time—my biggest fear is accidentally plagiarizing another poet. If it ever does happen, god forbid, I hope I’ll fess up & take responsibility & make it right in every way I can.
Not everyone has that same reaction—as Sam Cha eloquently notes in “Sorry-not-sorry: on plagiarism.” The essay is absolutely worth a read, but—to summarize—it responds to this email exchange, wherein poet Claudia Cortese confronts poet Lisa Low after discovering that Lisa plagiarized several of her poems.
This exchange shows pretty damning evidence.
When Lisa writes “after Claudia Cortese,” what she means is
that she’s taken poems from these two poets, field-stripped them, and then built them back up with different nouns. (x)
Indeed, it’s a poetic practice that consists “almost entirely of the process of de- and re-cellularization.” (x)
That is: “after” is a pretty generous way of describing the resulting poems.
Claudia Cortese noted:
Low not only plagiarized my words & images but--even worse--she stole my voice, trauma, a girl I love dearly--a girl I spent years creating, a girl who let me pour into her all of the pain and pathology of my girlhood--my book WASP QUEEN did not come easy, this is NOT OKAY (x)
On pages 7-8 of the email exchange, you can see Claudia’s & Lisa’s poems side-by-side.
Again, the evidence here is pretty damning, but it’s Low’s reaction to this evidence that really gets me:
The irony is that my project centers on an Asian-American experience of being silenced and invisible in real life/the media, and that is what is happening to me now. Ruby is a version of my younger self, an amalgamation of my experiences and insecurities growing up as an Asian-American girl in a white world, and it feels like you are telling her she doesn’t matter. This is the most heartbreaking part for me.
Sam Cha comments on this response:
Sounds pretty plausible, no? It’s not plagiarism, it’s commentary about the ethics of fiction-making. It’s not plagiarism, because it’s about taking a white person’s poem and repurposing it to build the narrative of a person of color. It’s not plagiarism. When you call it plagiarism you’re silencing me. When I substitute Ruby for Lucy, substitute white girl for father, put tofu where the spruce goes, put tampon where the marbles go, I am saying something specific about my experience. It’s breaking my heart! Don’t I matter?
I’d have been willing to buy it, if it hadn’t been after the fact.
But I can’t.
And as an Asian-American poet—as somebody who’s Asian-American in no small part because he wanted to write in English rather than in his mother tongue—as someone who has, in effect, given up his first home for the medium of his art—as somebody who tries to address, in his writing, identity and hypervisibility/invisibility through the lens of race and whiteness and racial stereotypes and microaggressions towards Asian-Americans, this hurts.
It hurts because Low has a point when she says it’s not the same when she addresses whiteness and Claudia Cortese addresses whiteness. It hurts because it bothers me when Claudia Cortese implies that Ruby talking about the white girls at school is the same as Lucy talking about the white girls at school. Because it isn’t. Can’t be. Shouldn’t be. It hurts because I have two graduate degrees in English and poetry, and not even the vestige of a Korean accent, and strangers on the street still ask me what country I’m from and whether I speak English and because I will bet you a solid gold toilet that Low gets those same questions—more in the last two years than ever before; more now than ever before—and I will bet you a Mar-a-Lago that Cortese does not. And because, when I see Cortese writing that she wrote in an essay that Lucy’s self-hate is shaped by living in a “white-supremacist rape-culture,” and that therefore when Low says that Ruby is “an Asian-American girl living in a white world” Low is plagiarizing Cortese’s earlier essay, I instinctively bristle, my whole body clenches like a fist, and because I then have to back down, because let’s face it, Cortese is right. It hurts because even with the screenshots of Low poems side-by-side with Cortese poems, my first instinct is protective. I want Low to be innocent. I want her POC point of view to be more than a concept that she’s deploying in self-defense. It hurts because her plagiarism makes a mockery of her POC point of view. And of mine. Because Low’s made it so she can’t, in fact, talk about her own experience and turn it into poems, and I want to be on her side, but I can’t.
It hurts because Low and I, we’re trying to do many of the same things, we are chasing down the same fucking whale. And she’s taking these concerns, these traumas, these obsessions, this work—that we share, that we investigate and pursue and harpoon, in some important sense together (I mean, sure, she does it by playing Mad Libs with other people’s syntax and form, and I do it by drinking lots of coffee and typing till I can’t see straight, but nevertheless: together)—and she’s taking all of that, and repurposing it as a goddam excuse, a fucking alibi, so that—what?
Are you kidding me? (x)
Here’s a little more:
&, from Waxwing:
I believe in the power of owning-up to wrongdoing.
Since we’re talking about plagiarism:
Publisher pulls books after late Canadian poet laureate accused of plagiarism (white fuckers stealing from Black people ….. what else is new)
& a tweet:
Onto lighter news!
Here are some lines from poems I read this week & loved & wanted to scream about.
What could be more natural than such a promise, such a yearning after.
Everything is a little dewy this morning, blue
crowning the slanted grass, its sun chains,
its longing, its shorn smell. Shore
up your promise, take me to the meadow,
the rocklaid lake.
-Katherine Gibbel, “Squill”
Like shrapnel, light scatters.
-Beth Bachmann, “On Beauty”
a steeple intent on its elsewhere, river giving
its name to the dead-end road, dividing
what we thought we knew
from what we never could.
-Kasey Jueds, “Litany (Easter)”
Come summer, our own feet would blur
to ghosts when we swam, blanched then vanished
into the river’s dim.
-Kasey Jueds, “Litany (Easter)”
into the ocean & mistook it
for a mirror
tarnished & infinite, I’ve called out
in the dark against
& for god.
-Flower Conroy, “Dead Girl Drowning”
the sparrows to cling
to the rim of you and trace
their momentary outlines
against the flux of sky?
-Kasey Jueds, “The Silo”
of the mind stuttering, little
needle skipping against
the record’s black disc
where it hits the scratched
place, the damage—
-Kasey Jueds, “The Silo”
The heart thuds with lack, / lack, lack.
-Luiza Flynn-Goodlett, “Discharge Questionnaire”
I am afraid to touch / anyone who might stay / long enough to make leaving / an echo
I / too / am at a loss for language / can’t beg myself / a doorway / out of anyone
listen darlings / there is a sky / to be pulled down / into our bowls / there is a sweetness for us / to push our faces into / I promise / I will not beg for you to stay this time / I will leave you to your wild galloping / I am sorry / to hold you again / for so long / I am in the mood / to be forgotten.
My life can pass like this
Waiting for beauty
Morning I am still new
tonight we touch. grandiose
experience, that. my hand,
your hand, your hand, yes,
-TR Brady, “Phantom Mirror II”
O spit of girl, O rot
of moss and lichen, cloud,
grouse, minnow mouth.
-Micaela Bombard, “Survival Spell”
Sorrow, like hunger,
always comes back.
-Ellen Bass, “On the Other Side of Sorrow”
Fading from gunmetal
to amethyst smoke,
remember Michigan sky
over spruce trees, first
the pond out back
like the rows of tulips
breaking through soil
-Michelle S. Reed
That’s what anybody’s story is, in the end: a forgiveness.
binnie @binni3isnthumanyour *straight cishet boyfriend does not see you as non-binary. and he is not inherently queer because he’s attracted to you.
That’s all for today.
See you soon—