mercredi 6 mai 2009

Reviewing Reviews

There is a great (overall, some of the responses are bunk) round table discussion over at MayDay magazine which discusses the phenomenon of Jason Guriel's exhortation to write negative reviews of poetry books. Personally, I think Guriel is a master of cheap shots and sensationalism, but his opinion may stem from a passion for literature and the promotion of great stuff (at the denunciation of the shit). It may not. The larger issue is that reviewers of poetry books are poets. And so due to an assortment of reasons (from thinking that the best way to criticize an awful book of poetry is ignore it and promote stuff you're enthusiastic about, to not wanting to insult people you will invariably run into, have taught you, or are otherwise important in our small, nervous community), most reviews of poetry are positive and blurbesque.

In my life, I have no problem mixing the poet and the scholar (though these roles remain compartmentalized for the most part). But being a poet and critic is something I want to avoid as much as possible. And emotionally, if I have to do a review, I'd rather be excited about something good or exploratory in what the poems do regardless of my tastes (for instance, when writing my sole published book review, which was of Circadian by Joanna Klink, I never lauded nor insulted the work: the careful reading I did, articulating the themes or whatever, was laurel enough, I thought). In other fields, artists criticizing other artists constitutes a "diss" and is always personal.

This leads me to my second point, which I will wait until next time to share: my newfound appreciation of pop culture, specifically hip hop. I will tell you that I am starting a project writing in a hip hop voice, the first poem of which is titled, "Elegy to the Saint Thomas Projects."