White Indiana Poet Passes as Asian-American to Get Published

PHOTO: Michael Derrick Hudson, poet behind "The Bees, the Flowers, Jesus, Ancient Tigers, Poseidon, Adam and Eve," claims that changing his name to "Yi-Fen Chou" gave him a leg up in his poetry career. Yi-Fen Chou
Michael Derrick Hudson, poet behind "The Bees, the Flowers, Jesus, Ancient Tigers, Poseidon, Adam and Eve," claims that changing his name to "Yi-Fen Chou" gave him a leg up in his poetry career.

A white man named Michael Derrick Hudson claims that changing his name to "Yi-Fen Chou" has given him a leg up in the brutal world of published poetry. The revelation has sparked accusations of misrepresentation and racism, with comparisons to disgraced Rachel Dolezal.

Hudson, of Fort Wayne, Indiana, is a genealogist at the Allen County Public Library. His poem -- “The Bees, the Flowers, Jesus, Ancient Tigers, Poseidon, Adam and Eve" -- was selected for the 2015 edition of “Best American Poetry,” with the pseudonym that uses a surname of Chinese origins.

Sherman Alexie, the editor who selected the poem for the annual anthology of 75 works, then received a note from Hudson himself.

"I chose a strange and funny and rueful poem written by Yi-Fen Chou, which turns out to be a Chinese pseudonym used by a white male poet named Michael Derrick Hudson as a means of subverting what he believes to be a politically correct poetry business," Alexie wrote in a blog post published Monday. "I only learned that Yi-Fen Chou was a pseudonym used by a white man after I'd already picked the poem and Hudson promptly wrote to reveal himself."

Some online commenters have called for the removal of the poem from the book, which is released this month by Simon and Schuster's Scribner publishing group.

"Although your reasons for publishing the poem MAY be defensible, the racist suggestion of the pseudonym is not," one online comment to Alexie's blog stated.

Phil Yu, who runs the blog "AngryAsianMan.com," wrote online, "Folks, if there is such a thing as employing yellowface in poetry, this has to be it."

Hudson explained that changing his name as an author helped his poetry career.

"There is a very short answer for my use of a nom de plume: after a poem of mine has been rejected a multitude of times under my real name, I put Yi-Fen's name on it and send it out again. As a strategy for 'placing' poems this has been quite successful for me," Hudson wrote in the contributors' notes section of "The Best American Poetry 2015."

Hudson did not respond to ABC News’ request for comment.

The poetry scandal is described as having a "Rachel Dolezal-esque tangle of questions about identity, authenticity, political correctness and 'affirmative action,'" according to The Washington Post, referring to the former NAACP chapter president in Spokane, Washington, who was accused of lying about her race and background.

Alexie explained in his blog post why he decided to keep the poem in the collection.

"And, yes, in keeping the poem, I am quite aware that I am also committing an injustice against poets of color, and against Chinese and Asian poets in particular.," Alexie wrote. "But I believe I would have committed a larger injustice by dumping the poem. I think I would have cast doubt on every poem I have chosen for BAP.

“It would have implied that I chose poems based only on identity. But that's not what happened. In the end, I chose each poem in the anthology because I love it. And to deny my love for any of them is to deny my love for all of them."