Poetry-gate and what it means for writers

I have been taken to task—and found wanting.

No kidding, friends. We are never finished learning, are we?

I will not and do not apologize for my last post. I still support Anders Carlson-Wee’s right to write what he feels. And if he can get it published, more power to him. I do not believe that the poem he wrote was in any way intended to be disrespectful to another culture. I believe it was written for those of us who enjoy white privilege and good health and plenty to eat.

However, I now see the problem. It was written by a white guy in good health with plenty to eat.

Before you say, “But Mark Twain!” (as I did), look at it this way. There are plenty of black writers out there now. The Nation did not publish them. During Twain’s time, very few black people had the ability and voice to protest their lot in life. So it fell to Twain and others like him to do so for them.

We’re at a pivotal point in literature. Every culture has writers. Excellent writers. Talented poets. And then there are people like me. I’m a little white girl from the South who refuses to write exclusively about little white Southern girls. I mean, what kind of romance would that make—okay, yeah. And not that there’s anything wrong with that (wink, wink), but I prefer a little diversity.

So, I’m working hard to incorporate diversity into my writing, even if my writing is “just” romance. I’ve written about the Cherokee nation, had a Greek-American heroine in a novel and a Greek hero in a short story. I’ve had supporting characters of different races and sexual orientations. And I didn’t even start out intending to make these things happen. They grew naturally from ideas whispered to me by my muse.

We need to be careful as writers not to make it taboo to write about a different culture from the one we were born into. It is our job to introduce new ideas and concepts to our readers, whether it’s in literary fiction or romance or a travel article. As a little Southern white girl, I’m going to do my best to keep expanding my cultural knowledge and hoping more of it leaks into my writing—and once it’s there, I’ll do my best to make sure it’s both sensitive and appropriate.

As a writer, that’s my job.

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