11 may. 2005

The few times I've written formal book reviews of poetry books, I've gone out of my way to choose books that I already liked, by youngish writers. I'm not a professional book reviewer and can pick and choose what I want to write about. I didn't have to be dishonest and praise something I didn't really approve of. That being said, I think there is a place and a function for negative or "mixed" reviewing. I get impatient with a lack of truth telling. I've had the experience of struggling with a poet that everyone seems to agree is great. Finally, I ask a friend, is this is bad as I think it is? Yes, comes the answer. Then why is nobody saying it out loud? We all know it's crap, but there's a taboo against actually saying it. "They'll just say we're jealous or competitive; our motives will be distrusted. He's my friend, don't quote me on this. He's a nice guy, let him off the hook..." etc.. What's the harm in pretending so-and-so's a great poet? Who does it hurt?

One answer is that it brings the conversation out into the open. Why not debate each poet on his or her merits, rather than hiding the unpleasantness under the rug?

These taboos only protect established, "name" poets. Nobody fears the repercussions of panning some young unknown.

2 comentarios:

Jesse dijo...

helpful in such instances: "all good poets are dead"


Anne Boyer dijo...

Jonathan --

I agree with you on this one. What I want from of reviews of newer poets (or even of radically new work by more established writers) is mostly "descriptive" rather than evaluative reviewing. I want to know what is going on (diction, form, philosophical concerns, aesthetic inheritances), how it is relevant to the contemporary, and decide from this information whether I should immediately go find a copy, give it a pass, etc.

When it comes to work from the ubiquitously credentialed minor poets or the later work of poets who have at this point just taken a position on the assembly line at the doggeral factory, I want it called as such. Not with abject cruelty -- but a certain code of honesty might help.