Can the Neo-Colonialist Writers Shut Up? Thank You in Advance – Eunsong Kim

I came into contact with Jack Gilbert’s poetry at an artist residency. I was outside my usual WOC haven – I was surrounded by white male artists who clutched The Canon like it was the edges of a lifeboat – or the hem of their muse. I was forced to engage in antiquated discussions about cultural appropriation (Is it wrong, really??? But it feels so sexy!) and the vast landscape of whiteness in our representation. Jack Gilbert was introduced in this context as poet who transcended Western tropes to delve into the deepest part of Human Affect. I could not disagree more 1. Jack Gilbert’s poetry is the pinnacle of Western, colonialist clichés and white male privileging.

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A summary of my arguments in bursts of 140 characters or fewer:

Why do I keep forgetting that “the other” is a colonial aesthetic object?

Must get over concerns for structural injustice so that I can witness the complexities of white male subjectivity under neo-colonial empire.

The pain of others is unfathomable & related to your privilege = crush it down into small consumable aesthetic objects so that u can move on

Am astounded when US poets believe that language is abstract, metaphysical and not material, historical, imperial.

Also reading women of color feminism & postcolonial theory will kill u. Literally destroy your subject position. An imperial canon is safer.

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  1 The white male poet who suggested the amazingness of Gilbert’s poetry demanded to receive credit for my critique of it. He suggested that since he introduced the poem (as great) and I rejected as garbage, that this is in some ways amounts to our collaboration. Let this be a disclaimer to lovers of the canon and colonialist poetry: your introduction and reminders of colonial writing will go uncredited. Or you will be credited as “predictable white man.”

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Eunsong Kim is a writer, researcher and educator mostly residing in San Diego. Her writing has appeared or is forthcoming in: Minnesota Review, Iowa Review, Seattle Review, Tinfish, Denver Quarterly, DIAGRAM, The Margins and others. Feel free to tweet her @clepsydras. For more: www.eun-song.org.

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