Why Are (Some) White (Conceptual) Poets So Mean?

I’ve probably read a couple of dozen articles and posts about this subject in recent weeks, but this one really struck more of a chord with me. And so I’m reblogging it.

Craig Santos Perez


The 1965 Berkeley Poetry Conference brought together many major American poets of that era. Imagine New American Poetry: 1945-1960 come to drunken life.And just like that famed anthology,the Berkeley conference featured mostly white poets.

Note: the word “conference” comes from the Latin root, “confere,” which means “expensive group hug.”

The roster for the 2015 Berkeley Poetry Conference (commemorating the 50th anniversary) included a multicultural list of very talented poets. However, the organizers made two fatal mistakes: 1) they invited Vanessa Place and 2) they did not invite me.

Place has been performing conceptual poems that traffic in racist and racialized content related to African American experiences. A similar act by another conceptual poet, Kenneth Goldsmith, included performing the text of Michael Brownʻs autopsy.

Note: Some of my best friends are white avant-garde poets.

Many poets were hurt, annoyed, and upset by these conceptual poetic acts. An online…

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