The prestigious Poetry Magazine, publishing since 1912, has been under attack for publishing a poem written by a man currently in prison for a sex offense.
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Here’s the story:
The magazine published the poem in an issue focusing on work by “currently and formerly incarcerated people”, their families and prison workers. The disputed poem is by a former professor of English literature who was released from prison last year after serving time for possessing, receiving and distributing child sexual abuse images in 2014.
The magazine has held firm to its decision despite protests that include a petition asking it to withdraw the poem by Nesset. The magazine said “We recognise the life-shattering impact of violence and denounce harm.” But it added that “People in prison have been sentenced and are serving/have served those sentences; it is not our role to further judge or punish them as a result of their criminal convictions. As editors, our role is to read poems and facilitate conversations around contemporary poetry.”
The new petition applauding the magazine for selecting poetry for publication “without regard to conviction history” was prepared by two ACSOL board members working with a communications expert who has spoken at the annual ACSOL conference. Their petition gathered 1500 signatures in less than three days.
You can read more about this story in articles from The Guardian and Slate.