Reviewing Poetry

A recent article in Publishers Weekly examined the relevance of poetry reviews, especially in light of the dwindling review space in magazines and newspapers across the country.  (Thanks to Lisa at Online Publicist for pointing it out)   As more MFA graduates write poetry and review poetry, the article suggests that the subculture of poetry is blossoming, which I saw first hand at the Split This Rock Poetry Festival.  As poets gathered and protested the war in Iraq and the war and Afghanistan, among other things, workshops espoused the fervor surrounding new poets, their place in the canon, and their push to make waves.

Unlike book reviews, many wonder what the point of poetry reviews are.  Do they sell books or do they have another purpose — at least that’s what Craig Teicher asks in his Publishers Weekly article.  Unfortunately, I’m not attending the Association of Writers and Writing Programs (AWP) conference in Denver this year, but for those going, they are in for a treat since Teicher has helped craft a panel on “The Practice and Purpose of Poetry Reviewing.”

However, I wanted to address the larger issue at hand:  Why review poems and poetry?

I think like fiction, reviewing poetry can demonstrate the enjoyment those lines, stanzas, and verses gave the reader, how deeply the poems affected the reader and caused them to think about the issues at hand.  Will reviews of poetry sell books or do they sell books?  I’m not sure, but I’ve often thought reviewing was purely an exercise in muddling through the text and images to find the deeper meaning of poem or prose.

As a writer, I’ve discovered that reviewing books and poetry keeps me thinking critically and learning the elements of the craft.  I hope that by examining what works and does not work in poems and prose, I can hone my own craft and writing to reach readers.

Many of my readers know that I find poetry inspiring and entertaining, and that I want to entice more people to give it a try and love it as much as I do or at least like it.  While not every poet or poem is for everyone, the same can be said for prose and authors.  It takes time to find poets and poems that speak to you, but the journey is part of the experience.

I would love to hear everyone’s thoughts about this topic, and whether they’ve ever read a poetry review that enticed them to purchase a book of poetry?


On another note, check out these great videos of people reading poetry all month long.


Also check out the next stops on the National Poetry Month Blog Tour; Rhapsody in Books features W.B. Yeats, Literate Housewife will talk about Alan Ginsburg and one of his readings.


  1. I see poetry as something I wouldn’t review, which I guess seems odd. I think part of it is that it intimidates me a little and I think I’m not “getting” it while I don’t feel that way about a regular book (most of the time.
    .-= Jenners´s last blog ..Show Me 5 Saturday: "Whacked" by Jules Asner =-.

    • I think that most people do get stuff out of poetry without realizing it. It will take a bit more to write a review, but I think that’s part of the fun…really delving into the words selected by the poet and their meanings, but I’m overly analytical sometimes.

  2. I’m afraid of poetry, so haven’t bought a book of poems based on a review. I’m hoping my part in National Poetry Month will help me get over my fear.

    • I hope it does too, and I hope that you’ve enjoyed the posts thus far. There are some great poets being highlighted this month.

  3. I think you make a great point about how reading poetry can help convey elements of the craft of writing. I also think that you more than anyone I can think of has been successful in your goal to “entice more people to give it a try and love it as much as I do or at least like it.”

    • Thanks for the compliment. I am trying to spread the word about poetry. I think that it is perceived as something that is always intellectual and for academics, but really it is like any other genre…there are poems that speak more to one set of people than others. You just have to read it to find what you enjoy.

  4. I agree that reviews help me process what I’ve read, and I love sharing books and poems that I love with others, even if they are not always as keen on poetry as I am.

  5. I review poetry for the same reasons I review books: to pull together my thoughts about the work, share my thoughts with my online friends, and maybe even generate some discussion. I’m sure reviews help sell books to some extent, as I’ve purchased books based on blog reviews, but that’s not the point for me.

    I’m curious to see what others have to say about this.