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The Paris Review Has ‘Mad Daughter and Big-Bang’ Stuck in Their Heads

By Harriet Staff


At the Paris Review blog yesterday, Luling Osofsky was pondering poems by fake authors, or fake poems by real authors, or something in between. If you haven’t guessed already, we’re talking about the Kent Johnson/Araki Yasusada controversy that blew up some time ago. Osofsky gives a little background in the matter:

It’s been over a decade since the poetry of Johnson’s heteronym, Araki Yasusada, excited, provoked, and even outraged the poetry community. The nuances of his “hoax” were revealed and debated; the manuscript “Doubled Flowering” was dropped by Wesleyan University Press. Johnson vigorously denied authorship, attributing the poem “Mad Daughter and Big-Bang,” along with manuscript’s letters and poetry, to Yasusada, and then, a potentially fictitious (and conveniently deceased) translator, Tosa Motokiyu. Scandal abounded, but “Mad Daughter and Big-Bang,” is beautiful and strange in spite of it all.


Some argue Johnson wrongfully appropriated a victim’s voice, others counter that Johnson himself was a victim, suffocated by expectations of truthiness. I’d suggest that sometimes the victim is the poem. By looking past the meta-politics of authorship, we may return to the Mad Daughter. We may also water ourselves, as vegetables in the ground.

Whatever your thoughts are on the matter, we hope that you’ll head over (pardon our pun) here to read the gorgeous poem.

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Posted in Poetry News on Tuesday, May 7th, 2013 by Harriet Staff.