Friday, February 13, 2004

I am increasingly impressed by the nuanced and thoughtful writing being done over at Gary Norris' Dagzine. Some of the same issues that have concerned me in recent weeks, especially the role of the market in poetry publishing, the latter being a category he emphatically wants to expand to include blogging and other non-print means of publication. He also dismantles the Jeff Menne review of Richard Greenfield's book that I called your attention to yesterday. Gary's perceptions are razor sharp, though I don't necessarily agree with all of his conclusions. I think Menne's attempts to "place" Richard are well-intentioned and preferable to the style of reviews (such as those common to Poetry) which simply assume in an un- or underspoken way both the book's place in an (invariably hierarchical) tradition, not to mention the reviewer's authority to define that tradition. Perhaps as usual the solution must be a dialectical one, in which the reviewer practices a kind of "full disclosure" of both the book's and his or her own relation to the larger poetry world as they understand it, without (this is the tricky bit) allowing that triangulation to dominate their reading of the text. This requires, among other faculties, a sense for the ways in which texts (I would almost say this is the baseline requirement for "good" writing) resist being so triangulated.

It's a lot to ask from a reviewer, which is one reason I've resisted taking up that task in a formal way. Which of course shows how I've come to understand the blog, or at any rate this blog, as a constitutionally informal space. Other poetics blogs with a more formal edge (I'm referring of course to Ron) come under attack on a fairly regular basis I think in large part because they offend other bloggers' sense that blogging shouldn't be taken too seriously. That's a mistake. Blogging like any other medium or form carries with it certain guiding connotations, just as the sonnet carries with it connotations of argument and erotic pursuit, whatever its actualy content. There is a dailiness to blogging in its purest form that mitigates against its being an ideal transmitter of "finished" wriiting—but that doesn't keep Ron and now, I think, Gary from using it that way, and using it very effectively. Myself, I think I will stick to what you might call advanced blurbing—little linguistic snapshots which will, I hope, provoke a few of my readers to buy them. I don't plan on blurbing books I don't like—that's why I call it blurbing. Almost a homonym for blogging, blurbing is a much-despised medium (the review of Selah this week begins with a complaint about blurbs). But a really good blurb is ideally situated to do the kind of work I think is demanded of the reviewer: the name of the blurber commences the act of triangulation, while the text provides an (never the) entryway into the book being blurbed. And sheer proximity (by being on the back cover of the book in question) both demystifies the "objectivity" claimed by the Poetry-style reviewer and also prevents the blurbist's take on the book from reifying the book itself—because the book is right there to be opened and read. Of course the blurbs I do here won't enjoy this advantage; the best I can do is link to where you can buy the book in question. Which is what I and all blurbists want: for my readers to support the poetry that I find exciting and necessary.

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