Poetry reviews, now and then
Keith Taylor published a talk he gave at AWP, “Some Thoughts on Reviewing Poetry in 2011,” over on the Fiction Writers Review site, funny enough. He begins by pointing out that reviewers are assigned poetry books even less often than they were a few years ago, and that the cultural valuation of poetry is pretty low. However, he celebrates all the small journals for keeping the art of reviewing alive, and discusses the promise of the internet for expanding the audience for poetry—a promise which, so far, he feels has gone relatively unfulfilled:
I wish I didn’t feel that. I wish I were speaking to a much larger audience. I wish I were hooking some new fish for the art to feed on. But I know I’m not. When the internet became a place to find both reviews and blogs about poetry, I was hoping that there would be a more expansive tone to the discussion of contemporary poetry. Instead, I found just the opposite. The sense of speaking to the club is even more pronounced in almost all the internet discussion of poetry. The sense of the different clubs is even more pronounced than it is in the literary journals.
And with the proliferation of writing programs ensuring a influx of readers, Taylor wonders whether these readers will also take on the role of the critic:
I wonder if young poets will still think reviewing is an essential part of the process of making poems. I don’t know. These new ways of discussing the art might make that question completely unnecessary. I fear, however, that that will be a loss, even if only a temporary one, a diminution of attentive reading and yet another victory for the various literary fashions that seem to be continually swirling across the surface of the art.