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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?

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

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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.