6.17.2005

Poetry reviews: The surrounding fabric of competition and inducement combines with a self-discomfort and conspires with a poor labor-to-reward payoff to render the average poetry reviewer mostly incapable of using their own perceptions in their writing or responding to what is in front of them. Under such circumstances, what kind of thinking are reviewers likely to engage in? What kind of writing are they likely to produce? Mostly the kind that reinforces the blurry panoply of passive-aggressive clich├ęs that serves as the current critical landscape of poetry reviewing, the kind that drains all energy from other people's bodies.

What the reviewer has in front of them is a sequence of words and a set of consequences it sets in motion. They also have a big gangly protective metal bear suit of preset expectations and automatic competitive reactions to deal with. 94% of what makes it past the bear suit serves the rote fulfillment of projected reviewer social expectations and/or stock competitive positioning maneuvers. In reading reviews I'm basically scanning for the 6% perception that remains after this filtering process is done.

So: lack of money and poor or no editing standards and a general lack of scrutiny where no one says "huh?" So I guess we could try to add these things. And the reviewers could stop and ask themselves: am I writing what I think about what is in front of me here?

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