On reviewing poetry
I have been struggling a little on reviewing poetry. Part of this stems from expectations and examples. A good proportion of the poetry reviews written in Australia are formal, multi page essays that do a fine job of interrogating the text, placing it in its context etc. They are great and at times even enjoyable for what they are; which is mainly very educated and well read poets talking to other educated and well read poets.
I find them less helpful in helping me choose who I might like to read. I am willing to suggest that there’s a good segment of the community (and I’m not talking about the wider non poetry reading community here either) that are in the same boat.
To write reviews of the calibre of a university paper is too much of a drain on my resources. I’d rather spend time writing poetry than reading enough poetry to be confident in critiquing it.
Note, this is not an argument against reading poetry, more not reading poetry that I have limited interest in or understanding of. I expect to grow as a poet but I want that growth to happen as a result of a concerted effort at writing as well as reading.
What I want to do as a reviewer of poetry is to share good poetry (or poetry I like) with other people who don’t necessarily read it. I think there are potential readers (and writers) or poetry who are lost because the entrance exam is too high (be this real or imagined).
The first modern/contemporary poetry book that I bought came not as the result of a long essay on its merits and comparing it to the rest of the field but from a blog and a link to the poet performing on YouTube.
I want to be able to give the reader of this blog in under 500 words a good sense of the poet’s work and why I think they should read them. My greatest aim would be to grab a non poetry reader and get them reading poetry for life and a stretch goal would be to get them to start writing poetry.
To that end I am interested in suggestions for what you might think makes for a good review of poetry aimed at the non poet.