Letter from Poetry Magazine

Letter to the Editor

by Judith Kitchen
Dear Editor,

I realize this is playing into your hands, but in the cause of something more important than mere controversy, and in the interest of a better Poetry, I need to express some concern. Over the past several months, I’ve begun to wonder just how you perceive the role of a poetry reviewer. I’ve noticed a tendency toward (no, a fad for) negative reviews, each just a little wittier, a little nastier than the month before, culminating in your June issue with reviews that seem written with no other purpose than to prove the cleverness of the writer. In their own spirit, I need to say that they seem like the work of cheeky young narcissists who elect negativity at the expense of informed analysis, substituting shallowness for depth, attitude for understanding. It seems odd to spend the first half of your journal promoting the work of poets you admire and the other half tearing down the work of poets who deserve, at the very least, respectful attention to what they are trying to accomplish. A thoughtful review brings a vision larger than the self to the task of assessment. Harriet Monroe looked to Pound for just such assessment, and—curmudgeonly as he could be—Pound was also a generous and enthusiastic sponsor of work he appreciated.

Port Townsend, Washington

Originally Published: October 30, 2005

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This prose originally appeared in the September 2005 issue of Poetry magazine

September 2005


Judith Kitchen was the author of several books, including: Perennials (poetry); Writing the World: Understanding William Stafford (criticism); Only the Dance (essays); Distance and Direction (essays); Half in Shade (nonfiction); and The House on Eccles Road (novel), which was awarded the S. Mariella Gable Prize in fiction. Her other awards include an NEA fellowship, two Pushcart Prizes, and the Lillian Fairchild . . .

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Originally appeared in Poetry magazine.

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