Jennifer Michael Hecht contributes a long post to the Best American Poetry blog, about the letters of Emily Dickinson, the difference between letters and blog posts, her kids, uprisings in the Arab world, and racism in American poetry. She focuses on the recent hubbub over Tony Hoagland’s “The Change,” but takes a refreshingly different angle on it—instead of condemning the poem out of hand as racist, she gives it a careful close reading, then condemns it as racist:

It explains its dislike with violent images, from the “whacked” ball to the woman “hitting the ball like she was driving the Emancipation Proclamation down Abraham Lincoln’s throat, like she wasn’t asking anyone’s permission.” This is sexual violence, a mix of fear and titillation. The sexual language continues with smelling breath, touching a flank, “kicked her ass good,” and “thumped her once more.” Hoagland is himself, I suppose, reflected in “the little pink judge,” and they are assumed to have the same thoughts and feelings about all this, only the judge forces himself to fake a smile. There is an echo of the lynch as the judge climbs up to put the ribbon on her neck.

Originally Published: March 1st, 2011