Sunday, September 13, 2015

Poetry Sunday: The Bees, the Flowers, Jesus, Ancient Tigers, Poseidon, Adam and Eve

Did you hear about the big brouhaha in the world of poetry last week? It seems that a poem that was included in this year's volume of the Best American Poetry series was published using a nom de plume. That probably wouldn't have stimulated much discussion or controversy except that the poet's real name is Michael Derrick Hudson and the name under which the poem was published was Yi-Fen Chou.

Hudson has said that he submits his poems first in his real name, and, if he can't get them published under that name, he resubmits the poems (unchanged) under his Asian pen name. Apparently, the editors who originally published his poem in the literary journal Prairie Schooner, as well as Sherman Alexie, the editor of this year's Best volume, were unaware of the fact that the poet is Caucasian not Asian.

Did that make a difference in his poem being selected for publication? Perhaps we'll never really know the answer to that question. A better question according to David Orr, poetry critic of The New York Times Book Review, might be, is the poem any good? Does it really deserve to be included in a Best of... collection? His assessment is that the poem isn't bad but that it is far from one of the best American poems of the year. What do you think? 


The Bees, the Flowers, Jesus, Ancient Tigers, Poseidon, Adam and Eve


   by Yi-Fen Chou (Michael Derrick Hudson)

Huh! That bumblebee looks ridiculous staggering its way

across those blue flowers, the ones I can never
remember the name of. Do you know the old engineer’s

joke: that, theoretically, bees can’t fly? But they look so

perfect together, like Absolute Purpose incarnate: one bee
plus one blue flower equals about a billion

years of symbiosis. Which leads me to wonder what it is

I’m doing here, peering through a lens at the thigh-pouches
stuffed with pollen and the baffling intricacies

of stamen and pistil. Am I supposed to say something, add
a soundtrack and voiceover? My life’s spent

running an inept tour for my own sad swindle of a vacation

until every goddamned thing’s reduced to botched captions
and dabs of misinformation in fractured,

not-quite-right English: Here sir, that’s the very place Jesus

wept. The Colosseum sprouts and blooms with leftover seeds
pooped by ancient tigers. Poseidon diddled

Philomel in the warm slap of this ankle-deep surf to the dying
stings of a thousand jellyfish. There, probably,

atop yonder scraggly hillock, Adam should’ve said no to Eve.

6 comments:

  1. I like the poem but I don't think it's extraordinary. If the other poems are like this one, then our best poets are going nowhere.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I think we are in agreement there. I haven't looked at the Best of... collection yet, but Mr. Orr seems pretty dismissive of their selections.

      Delete
  2. The only thing interesting about this poem is imagining the Chinese-American woman who was supposed to have written it.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. From what I've heard, yours seems to be the majority opinion!

      Delete
  3. Many interesting ideas in this poem.
    I am grateful for the controversy that brought it to my attention. For what it's worth, I discovered this poem when reading about the Sokal hoax.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. It certainly has created some controversy, but, like you, I find it an interesting poem. Interesting construction and presentation of ideas.

      Delete