Friday, May 13, 2011

"Why are white editors so mean?”

Craig Santos Perez sez:

“White editors aren’t mean, it’s just very hard for them to publish writers like us. It’s hard and often unrewarding work being an editor.”

He responded: “But you’re an editor, Professor Craig. And you’re not mean.”

It’s true.

So I reflected: is there something essential about being a white editor that makes them mean? Something inherently mean about whiteness?

Later, I reflected into a mirror: What makes editors of color, like myself, and writers of color in general, such nice people?

Have you ever noticed that even though writers of color are rarely published in mainstream journals, rarely receive major prizes or awards, rarely reviewed in major venues—and moreover all we write about are our difficult and traumatic histories, our oppressed cultures, our forgotten stories—yet we are such jolly people.

Have you ever been to an Asian-American, African-American, Latino, or Native American poetry reading? The poems are fucking depressing and people sometimes cry during the reading. Yet before and after the reading is a party! Everyone’s so happy, so friendly—there’s sometimes singing and dancing too!

Have you ever been to a Pacific Islander reading—the most underrepresented group in American poetry--? We always have a ton of food at our readings, and we spend more time talking story and laughing around the food than we do actually reading our depressing poems!

Perhaps if we can understand why writers of colors are so happy, then we can understand why white editors are so mean.

Despite everything we’ve been through, writers of color are happy for one reason, and one reason only: anthological loving. The word, “anthology,” comes from the Greek “anthos,” meaning “group hug.”

That’s right, every month a new anthology for writers of color is published: New Latino Writing, African American Nature, Queer Native American, Diasporic Pacific Islander, Asian American Women, South Asian American, Old Latino Writing, Experimental African American, Global Indigenous, Midwest Latinos, New Generations, Next Generations, Emerging Generations, etc, etc, etc.

Every time one of these anthologies is published, a historic publication gets its wings. We gather, celebrate (with lots of food), and embrace. We finally arrive. Or arrive, in a different way. Again and again.

We love the Anthology (to the point of fetish), and the anthology loves us back.

And the anthologies sell like tortillas, like frybread, like dumplings, like Spam.

Now, let’s return to our question: Why are white editors so mean? They are so mean because there has never been an anthology of White-American Poetry. Think about that: white poets have never had an anthology to call their own. They have never experienced the unconditional love of an anthology that is just for them. This sad exclusion has made them bitter and mean to the point of displacing their feelings of exclusion onto writers of color.

White-American poets, hear me: you have come a long way since your barbaric yawps and mystic circumferences. Through my education, I’ve watched you evolve over the last century and develop your craft. It’s time. You’re ready.

Today, I call upon you to submit to Manifest Destiny: The First Anthology of White-American Poetry.

Just like in the formation of other emerging literatures, the first anthology needs to be edited by a cultural outsider (me) and a cultural insider. Don Share, I invite you to co-edit this historic anthology with me!

I believe this anthology will settle upon the canon and breed other anthologies of White-American poetries and, over time, white poets and editors will feel more loved, more included, more celebrated—and thus less mean.

And they will sell, like white bread.

Now, let us anthos.

Read Craig's full article here! (Additional commentary here.)


Ms Baroque said...

Ohmigod. Don, if anybody can do this, you can. It'll be great! And you have to have FOOD.

This reminds me of a story my mother told me when I was a kid. Everybody was going on about "soul food" and reclaiming their ethnic foods, and my mother said she had a real shock one day - she'd been feeling a bit left out, like Craig's white editor, because she didn't get to reclaim her fancy ethnic food, all she ever ate was "normal," "plain" food.

Then, it must have been a conversation with someone, or she went somewhere and saw the lie of the land. She suddenly realised that scalloped potatoes and pot roast WAS ETHNIC FOOD. Hurrah!

I await updates with breathy anticipation.

Don Share said...

Thank you, Katy! As it happens... I've put together a section of poets writing about food for the summer double-issue of POETRY which will have things like Kristin Naca on cannibalism and duende, Nikki Giovanni on beer, and more. You're prescient!

I've been meaning to write to say how sorry I was to have missed you in London - believe it or not, I had virtually no email access over there. No free WiFi that worked anyplace I went! But I hope to get back somehow...

Conrad DiDiodato said...


"Why are white editors so mean? They are so mean because there has never been an anthology of White-American Poetry."

Perhaps White-American writers have relied more on poetry theory than ethnicity: as in the case of Donald Allen's celebrated 60's "New American Poetry: 1945-1960". Perhaps "writers of color" have had to address more vital life issues than LangPo theory. Just a thought.