On the Pleasure of Hating
The back and forth begins with Kent Johnson, who states in a letter to the editors of Poetry ". . . so here's a vote for Guriel's call that the 'negative' spirit continue-- only that it continue with a much more forceful satiric push. There's never been a great age of poetry, after all, where poets weren't taunting and lampooning one another..."
Johnson calls for, among other things, a return to the anonymous, unsigned review in order to sidestep the sticky wicket of toadyism.
An interesting proposal that inspires a raft of responses from some critical bigwigs including:
* Robert Archambeau (" I’m with Johnson on all of this, but I think he goes awry in the particular solution he proposes to the problem . . . ")
*Stephen Burt ("it's not worth writing a negative review of a book that will sink without a trace, which most poetry books do")
*Annie Finch ("At the moment, female reviewers are most confident and successful when they play according to the rules that have been established by centuries of male tradition.")
*Daisy Fried ("Even a negative review is better than damning with inept praise.")
*Johannes Göransson ("It does indeed seem like one of the central editorial goals of post-Lilly Poetry magazine has been to stir up quarrels with negative reviews or straight-out quarrel baiting . . . ")
*Eric Lorberer ("The obsequious, back-scratching, and self-serving tenor of too many approving reviews is certainly worthy of scrutiny and complaint, but it’s puerile and simplistic to think that one’s only recourse is to be scathing, satirical, or dismissive.")
* Ange Mlinko ("As poets, we’ve set up the whole shebang to be either/or, black-or-white, love-it-or-leave-it by emphasizing “very interesting language”—poetry dialect.")
*Michael Robbins ("Franz Wright’s unbalanced menacing of Logan notwithstanding, poetry reviewing is a fairly blithe business.")
*Rodrigo Toscano (". . . the blurb can also be a place for new vistas—in the midst of the Blurbosphere itself.")
And much much more!
Well, much much more except comments. And so I offer up the space below for commentary on the commentary on the commentary (on the commentary?).
Travis Nichols is the author of two books of poetry: Iowa (2010, Letter Machine Editions) and See Me Improving (2010); and he is the author of two novels: Off We Go Into the Wild Blue Yonder (2012) and The More You Ignore Me (2013). He has contributed to The Believer, Paste, The...