A recurrent theme in the letters you've published about poetry reviewing is that "negative reviews don't make friends for the reviewer." True, but reviews are under no constraint to do so. Even a middling intelligence can grasp the careerbuilding potential of dishonesty; less obvious is that calculated jockeying for position harms the writing of poetry itself. And not only because standards are muddied when a reviewer says a bad book is good or a good one bad. Most poetry reviewers are themselves poets, and in theory wish to write well. But the psychology of artistic creation is delicate, and habits of dishonesty acquired in one realm will unfailingly be transferred to another. Each opportune misrepresentation puts a poet's authentic work at risk, through unacknowledged and repressed guilt and through the dry rot of mendacity, which, unresisted, gradually takes over an entire psyche. Plots and stratagems advance the writer's case for the short term, but compromise it later on. Am I wrong to imagine that, when we all began, our intense desire was not to receive a MacArthur fellowship or to have tenure at an Ivy League university?but instead to write poems as good as, say, Keats or Dickinson (neither of whom in their lifetime received many public compliments). So long as career is the prime mover for poets in our time, American poetry will stumble.
Wakefield, Rhode Island