Ethnic Poetry

I was recently published in an anthology of ethnically appropriate (to me) poetry. This is probably my biggest publication ever, and I’m pretty proud. All of my patient non-writing friends have had to endure me handing them the book and ask “Who is your favorite [ethnically appropriate to me] American poet?” They look panicked for a minute, but then they see through me. “Wait, are you in this?” And then they pretend to look at the poem, and say something ¬†congratulatory.

There have been a number of marketing pushes for this book. Readings have been organized, etc. And the other day I received an email about some kind of interview. One of the editors (who otherwise seems like a great person) sent us a list of questions and asked those of us who had the time to respond to one in a short paragraph.

The questions made me want to die. “What is the role of [ethnically appropriate to me, hereafter EATM] poetry in today’s multicultural society?”

This one I could almost answer. For years the only people of my ethnicity I knew were my family. And so my ethnicity is very much wrapped up in my sense of family, especially in my writing. But that’s just my experience. There are so many other ways people experience their ethnicity, I couldn’t speak for them all. And, who do we think we are, the chosen people? Jaysus God Tonight. [Thank you, my Maritime friends, for adding that expression to my vocabulary.]

“What do you think are the perceptions of non-EATM readers of EATM American poetry?”

How the fuck do I know? No one dares walk up to me and say “You know what? I hate how you’re always going on about your ethnicity.”

And my favorite “Seeing as the state of modern poetry being as it is, what is the role of EATM poetry in American poetry?”

Fuck me sideways. My undergraduates can write better questions than that. But what is this question even asking? Who made me an authority on EATM poetry?

I wanted the questions to be more specific to me, not because I’m a narcissist, but because I’m not a literary scholar. How do I write about my ethnicity? How does being [ethnicity redacted] affect my poetry?

I’m beginning to understand Elizabeth Bishop better.

What are you an authority on?


8 responses to “Ethnic Poetry

  1. To my husband’s dismay, I believe I’m an authority on surfing and worrying about who gets rescued and not….

    At least you can hand the poems you’ve published to friends and they can read them without a big time commitment. I have friends who dread hearing I’ve put out a short story or essay. One of them recently emailed me, “How was that SHORT?!” (my 11 page story…)

  2. Oy vey (sayeth the goy).

    I think I may be an expert in sounding like an expert unless I’m with actual experts.

    I wonder if there’s an Association for that. Can you imagine what the conference panels would be like?

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