Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Rick Lupert, dubious word use and the silence of poets.


Moral Conundrum Department:
You're a poet who attends a reading where Rick Lupert, in an effort (apparently without much thought) to get laughs, uses the word "Chinaman.". You find his use of the word offensive, but you're also aware he doesn't do this sort of thing all the time--plus he's well liked and respected in the Southern California community. But his use of a casual racial epithet bothers you.
Do you:
A. Go up to Rick and say you are offended by his use of the word--speaking respectfully but firmly, regardless of consequences to you.
B. Say nothing, because he hosts a nearly two-decades old reading series at Canoga Park's Cobalt Cafe and you have a plethora of worries--that you may never get to feature there or (if you're a poetry host) get him to feature at your venue or possibly never be chosen by Rick for anthologies he may edit or readings he may curate at prestige poetry venues.
C. Say nothing because Rick Lupert is popular and you don't want to be condemned for talking about a momentary slip of the tongue that's not "a big thing." But remember to condemn an unpopular poet if he/she says something racist/sexist at a reading because it's safe and "the right thing to do."

[UPDATE: Rick responded via Facebook that this was "an attack bordering on libel."  I gave him the opportunity to apologize for the remark he made (on video) at the reading.  He did not apologize, choosing instead to criticize me for criticisms I've made about SoCal poets and regarding the use of the word as part of a non sequitur in a poetry performance piece full of them.]


  1. Also, what you're doing here is accusing Rick Lupert of being a racist at worst and insensitive, at best. Do you really think that he is either of these things?

    Have your read any literature? Are you capable of putting things into perspective? And why is the word "Chinaman" inappropriate? It's a man from China. What is a Jew? If I called Rick Lupert a Jew, would that be offensive? What if you called me a Caucasian? That feels a little dirty.

    And why did you delete my response and your response? If you post something in a blog, you need to take responsibility for it and for the outcome.

    Freedom of speech only works if you take responsibility for the repercussions.

    1. Yes, I'll say that in the particular incident immortalized on video, Rick clearly comes off as insensitive.

  2. Dear Joanne,

    The earlier comments were deleted only because, per your request, I removed certain words you found objectionable. And in order to do that, it became necessary to delete the original post and re-enter it.

    Please feel free to make further comments as necessary.