Letter from Poetry Magazine

Letter to the Editor

by Grace Bauer

Dear Editor,

There’s a difference, I think, between writing a negative review and “going negative”—a difference Jason Guriel demonstrates in his own review of that title. Guriel clearly is “necessarily skeptical,” as he believes all reviewers must be, and he’s tough on the poets he reviews, but he keeps his skepticism focused on the work, and doesn’t resort to snarky comments about the poets’ lifestyles, lovers, or even looks (all of which I have seen done in reviews). Instead, he does the job of reviewing as Marjorie Perloff suggests it should be done: He tells us what he finds weak or lacking in the books he discusses, explains how or why he finds it lacking, and provides enough textual evidence to help readers form their own opinions about both the poetry and the review. One may not agree with everything he says (and I don’t) but can still respect his judgment, because his “agenda” is what it should be—an analysis of poetry. The line between “writing negative reviews” and “going negative” may be a fine one, but it’s one worth walking.

lincoln, nebraska

Originally Published: May 1, 2009

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This prose originally appeared in the May 2009 issue of Poetry magazine

May 2009
 Grace  Bauer


Grace Bauer was born and raised in Pennsylvania, but has lived in New Orleans, Montana, Virginia, and Massachusetts. Bauer earned a BA in journalism from Temple University and an MFA in poetry from the University of Massachusetts, Amherst.
Her full-length collections of poetry include The Women at The Well (1996), Beholding Eye (2006), and Retreats and Recognitions (2007). Her work has been published in numerous anthologies . . .

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Originally appeared in Poetry magazine.

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