Meet the bullies from the world of social justice poetry
From Hannah Yoest at The Weekly Standard:
Rachel Custer sat in Lutheran Hospital of Fort Wayne Indiana as chemotherapy dripped into her daughter’s arm. It was October 2016, the week of her daughter’s sixth birthday, and the little girl had just been hospitalized with a neutropenic fever. Suddenly, Custer’s phone lit up with a flurry of emails and Facebook alerts. But they were not messages of support. They were attacks—because her poem, “How I Am Like Donald Trump” had gone live on the online poetry magazine Rattle. “Comment after comment calling me racist and a white nationalist. Claims my daughter’s cancer was fake. It was like they hadn’t even read the poem,” Custer says now in an interview.
Two years later, Custer is still dealing with backlash from the poem. “It’s kind of like dressing yourself in raw meat and jumping into piranha-infested waters,” she says of writing poems in our current political climate. Recently, she published the poem “To the Woman in a Plague Mask Outside the Living Room Window” in the Journal Mag, a literary magazine run by the Ohio State University’s Department of English. The poem was not online long before members of the online poetry community went to the magazine’s editors and complained about them publishing Custer.
The Journal decided to quietly remove the poem from their website and archive. Initially, when Custer inquired about what had happened she was informed that the Journal had been “notified about online comments regarding POC and the LGBTQ community that do not align with our mission and stance on inclusivity. We thought it best to remove the material while we investigate these comments.” Custer, who is a lesbian and member of the community herself, requested more information about their decision since the poem itself did not contain any “harmful” language. There followed a back and forth between Custer and the editors of the Journal: Custer tried to understand the allegations being made against her; the Journal said they were investigating the allegations. The correspondence dragged on over weeks.