The Nation offered a lengthy apology on Friday for a poem offering advice to panhandlers which the magazine’s poetry editors later conceded was “ableist” and “caused harm to members of several communities.”
“As poetry editors, we hold ourselves responsible for the ways in which the work we select is received. We made a serious mistake by choosing to publish the poem ‘How-To,'” said the magazine’s poetry editors Stephanie Burt and Carmen Giménez Smith. “We are sorry for the pain we have caused to the many communities affected by this poem. We recognize that we must now earn your trust back.”
In their lengthy statement — longer than the poem for which they were apologizing — the editors said they would substantially revise how they looked at future submissions.
“We are currently revising our process for solicited and unsolicited submissions. But more importantly, we are listening, and we are working,” they said. “We are grateful for the insightful critiques we have heard, but we know that the onus of change is on us, and we take that responsibility seriously.”
After originally posting ecstatically about being published in the iconic liberal magazine, poet Anders Carlson-Wee (pictured above) also offered an apology, saying that his original intention had been to address the “invisibility of homelessness.”
“To all who have voiced questions and concerns about my poem in The Nation: I am listening closely and I am reflecting deeply,” he said. “I am sorry for the pain I have cause, and I take responsibility for that,” he said.
The poem offers advice to presumably homeless panhandlers on the best way to pry cash from passersby, including this line: “If you’re crippled don’t /
flaunt it. Let em think they’re good enough / Christians to notice.”
Throughout the poem, the narrator also adopts an ungrammatical vernacular that many readers found equally troubling: “Don’t say homeless, they know / you is.”
Carlson-Wee did not immediately respond to request for comment from TheWrap.
You can read his full statement below.
— Anders Carlson-Wee (@AndersWeePoet) July 24, 2018
You can also read the original poem which ignited the firestorm here.