Brian Spears

Poet, Editor, Teacher, Blogger.

Good day yesterday

Woke up yesterday morning to the pleasant surprise that I’d been included on this list of poets that will make you pay attention to poetry in 2013. What made it better was seeing lots of familiar faces–as in, people who have some connection to the Rumpus (which is what I was mainly cited for)–on that list as well. My daughter appreciated that the poem they linked to was the one I wrote about her name.

Later in the day, Amy and I went to the IVF clinic for what would be–in a good way–our final visit. Here’s the latest ultrasound image of Cobrahead and Gütküttr, our little frog-monsters who are making their way toward potential humanhood.


They’re right on track for 9 weeks old, good heartbeats, and now Amy gets to move into more traditional care. Also, the rate of miscarriage for embryos at this point drops to less than 1%, so hurrah for that.

And then the crowner: the AWP panel I proposed celebrating the 5th anniversary of The Rumpus was accepted–first time I’ve had a panel I proposed get taken–and the one I was invited to be on that deals with the use of social media to gain an audience was accepted as well. I’ve never been a two-panel person at AWP. Hell, I hadn’t even attended a panel in years until last year’s AWP, much less been on one. And one of the panels Amy was invited to be a part of made it as well.

But here’s the twist–because there has to be a twist, right? Amy’s due date is a week after the AWP conference, or two weeks before if we’re looking at the usual calendar for multiples. So who knows if either of us will even make it to the Pacific Northwest. We’re working on options.

A note about that Flavorwire list. There are some terrific writers on that list–I’ve run poems by some and reviews by others and there’s even a Rumpus Poetry Book Club selection author on there–and there are people who I haven’t gotten work from that I would dearly love to have showcased on The Rumpus as well. But it’s a really white list, and the response to some of my Twitter friends who pointed that out yesterday really illustrated what white male privilege looks like in this little corner of the world.

For instance, Michael Robbins (who was also on the list) tweeted “omg there are no nonwhite people on some list on the internet.” Read in the most generous light possible, Robbins was trying to say something about how these lists are ridiculous. And in a small way, I agree. We don’t run lists at The Rumpus and never have. Our founding editor ran a piece against them (in the form of a list) back when we first got started. They’re lazy. But I have to really stretch to get that out of Robbins’s tweet because of the tone.

It’s the dismissive “omg” and the “some list on the internet” that points to the privilege. Because it’s easy to dismiss a conversation as silly when you’re part of the group who’s always a part of it. But if you’re not part of that group, if every time you see a list that recommends people to watch in some particular field and you rarely see a face that looks like yours, then that conversation just got a lot more serious. The fact that Robbins and others could shrug off that list? That’s a privilege. But it goes farther than that. The ability to act inconsiderately in a public space and pay little or no social or professional cost for doing so is something that mostly only white males can get away with. Robbins isn’t going to have any more difficulty placing work today than he did yesterday–in fact, he’s got a reputation for being just this person, so in some ways, it seems to be working for him.

This issue of privilege extends farther, of course. I see it all the time in the political people I follow in social media. Dismissing a complaint by a minority group by saying that there are bigger issues in the world is a common white male privilege in action. You see that one all over the political spectrum, from libertarian to progressive.

And of course, there’s the white male privilege I showed off last night when I started getting retweets and favorites and new followers in (for me) droves. Because nothing I’m talking about here is original to me. I’m repeating the thoughts and arguments that women and people of color have been making for a really long time, but because I’m a white male, I’m not so easily dismissed.

I feel about this the same way I felt about being called a superdad when my now-grown daughter was 8 and I was taking her to her soccer games at 7:30 am on a Saturday. I’m only doing what I’m supposed to do. I shouldn’t get a cookie for that.

And that’s the way I feel about being inclusive in my editing choices. Of course I’m concerned about getting work from a full range of humanity. Of course I want my poetry and review section to be diverse, both in the books we review and the people we have review them. And if someone points out a place where I can do better, I listen, because I’m trying to ignore the privilege that says I don’t need to, that says I can just shrug complaints off because they don’t affect me personally or the group I’m a part of. I want no part of that if I can avoid it.

August 2, 2013 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment