Critic accused of writing ‘transphobic’ review of poetry book

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Echidna is Essa Ranapiri's second published book of poetry and was published in May 2022 by

Essa Ranapiri/Supplied

Echidna is Essa Ranapiri’s second published book of poetry and was published in May 2022 by

More than 400 people from the literary world have signed an open letter condemning a “transphobic” poetry review by Listener writer Nicholas Reid on his personal blog.

Reid gave his opinion on Echidna, the new collection of the poet takatāpui Essa Ranapiri (they/them), both in The Listener and on his blog.

The auditor’s review did not contain the offensive comments.

In the first paragraph of Reid’s review, he focused on Ranapiri’s appearance, describing them as a “hairy-chested poet wearing lipstick and a robe”.

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Reid also refuses to use Rianapiri’s pronouns which he calls “confusing” and “foreign”. Instead, Reid opts for the term “poet.”

“It is clear that Reid cannot hide his disdain for communities he does not understand,” the open letter reads.

“The transphobia in this review is inappropriate and actively harms the author and the wider queer community.

“We ask that you consider creating a platform for other poetry critics. Reid should not be paid to critique queer works.

Karyn Scherer, editor of NZ Listener, said she “only became aware of Nicholas Reid’s comments on her personal blog after her Listener review was published”.

“I believe our readers deserve reviews that respect and understand the issues faced by LGBTQIA+ authors, so we will not use this to review such work in the future,” Scherer said.

Essa Ranapiri is a takatāpui poet who has published two collections of poetry.

Essa Ranapiri/Supplied

Essa Ranapiri is a takatāpui poet who has published two collections of poetry.

Ranapiri is unhappy with the listener’s response.

“It’s not the worst answer. They could have said, ‘it doesn’t matter’.

“But it’s not acknowledging the problem which is his transphobia and the blatant bigotry he expressed. They kind of avoided that,” Ranapiri said.

Ranapiri said the literary scene could intensify when it comes to reviewing queer and indigenous work.

“There is a lack of good reading of queer and Maori work, especially takatāpui work.

“Places like The Listener need to think a little more carefully about who is doing the work for them,” they said.

Poet Lily Holloway wants to see a more diverse group of critics writing about New Zealand poetry.

Malta Müller/Getty Images

Poet Lily Holloway wants to see a more diverse group of critics writing about New Zealand poetry.

Lily Holloway (they/she) is the poet who started the open letter. They said the purpose of the letter was to “diversify the pool of criticism that publications like The Listener use”.

“These kinds of transphobic ideas have a tangible effect on the people they’re directed at.

“All cases of transphobia and queerphobia are linked. People who commit acts of violence are emboldened by people who promote intolerant ideas and myths about trans and takatāpui people.

“It’s a cycle of intolerance emboldened by intolerance. It is important to call it whatever form it takes. Every time you see it,” Lily said.

Last month the government launched an inquiry into anti-queer discrimination in schools after a transgender student attempted suicide following discrimination at his school.

The student survived.

Even more recently, the Rainbow Youth building in Tauranga was the target of an arson attack. Two men reportedly used turpentine and a wheelie bin to set the building on fire.

Nicholas Reid was approached for comment on Friday, but has yet to respond.

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