Originally Posted by Julie Steiner
[My] Best [Friends in] American Poetry
Okay, I concede that I went too far on that one. If good work by good poets gets well-deserved visibility from this, of course I'm happy about that. And yes, it's unfair that poets who had nothing to do with any impropriety might have their own selections by this editor regarded as possibly tainted.
But isn't that the point?
Isn't the tarnishing of the integrity of an honor the main reason why the custodians of that honor should have rules to avoid the appearance of impropriety in their selection processes?
I also take a very dim view of the "everybody knows that this kind of favoritism and self-dealing has been going on behind the scenes forever, so who cares whether it takes place in broad daylight?" defense.
When my congressmember, Randy "Duke" Cunningham, was caught soliciting bribes in return for federal contracts, no one who commented on the situation seemed at all surprised to learn that a congressmember had been soliticing bribes for federal contracts. What shocked people was that he was so shameless and open about it that he actually did so on his official House of Representatives stationery
That's what gets me in the BAP situation, too. I'm not at all shocked to learn that favoritism and self-dealing exist in the poetry world. But I'm also not going to shrug at the fact that this time the editor and publisher aren't even bothering to hide their ethically questionable behavior.
Yes, I know that what Major Johnson [CORRECTED: Johnson! Doh!] has done in honoring his own, his wife's, his boss's, and his friends' work is not illegal, and he probably honestly considered these pieces to be among the the year's most accolade-worthy poetry. I also know very well that poetry editors and judges tend to move in certain circles because they have an affinity for a particular style of expression and craft, that heavy hitters have inevitable professional and personal ties to other heavy hitters and cannot exclude them without damaging the completeness of a book that is supposed to contain the best work, etc., etc.
But the reason I am familiar with those defenses is because I heard them in discussions of Jorie Graham's tar-and-feathering on Foetry.com
. Which wasn't so long ago, was it? A decade and a half?
The Best American Poetry publishers aren't stupid, and must have known that these selection decisions would kindle a Foetry.com-reminiscent kerfuffle over favoritism and self-dealing. So I have to conclude that the publicity from the kerfuffle over the 2015 Best American Poetry selections
was so salubrious for book sales, they must have decided to create another scandal to make sure the 2019 book would have lots of buzz.
I guess I've played right into their hand by buzzing about it.