Dear Emily Post-Avant,

 I am writing to ask that you explain this horrific letter at Dispatches by “Curious in Canada” whatever his moniker is, focusing on Stephanie Burt. Why would you run a letter that trashes a trans person?

 –Concerned in Boston


Dear Concerned in Boston,

No one around these parts, so far as I can tell, is anti-trans. Nor would the Dispatches editors, I’m sure, post anything they deemed to be anti-trans. Or misogynist, or racist, either. Actually, Dispatches strikes me as remarkably emphatic in its radical stances against sexism, racism, homophobia, and State repression, from India, to China, to Israel, to the U.S. Or in its calling-out of the institutional rot that has invaded (in no small measure through the back door of Sunday School virtue-cant) the sovereign spirit of poetry. Can you name me a “Lit” mag or site that speaks out on these things more than Dispatches?

The Letter we posted by “Goatboy” is smartly critical of Stephanie Burt, not because of her gender transformation, but because of her rank hypocrisy in allowing herself to be cowed by a mob into denouncing a harmless and perfectly well-meaning poem (after she herself had accepted and printed it in the Nation) by the young poet Anders Carson-Wees. Denouncing the poem, that is, on the grounds of a “cultural appropriation” of identity when, as “Goatboy” points out in his letter, she herself, objectively speaking, is deeply engaged in entering and exploring a different identity. More power to her, as the letter also points out. And long live the right of trans folks to be who they want to be. But how about a little thoughtful reflection and a bit of generosity when it comes to judging others, not to mention throwing them under a truck of Show-Trial sputum, just to save one’s little culture post (which Burt showed herself, in the pathetic, embarrassing episode, to not deserve, and shame on her for not resigning).

The bottom line here is really the bullshit politics of the current poetry “world” and the power someone like Burt is granted (by whom?) to anoint and dis-anoint, to make or break, to include or exclude, and to define what is and is not literarily “excellent” poetry. The poetry field has descended into a species of careerist, ideology-driven gangsterism which has everyone running for cover.

Pardon my French, love, but as my old dear friend, Emma Goldman, used to say, fuck ‘em all – whatever their gender choices.