Thursday, January 13, 2011

Reviewing (and Reading) 'Difficult' Poetry

Apologies for the gap between posts. I’ve been busy generally and, on top of everything else, I’ve been making a determined effort to and allocate reviewers to books for the 50th issue of Magma. Almost there, but not quite.

I’ve also had a couple of chapbooks to review myself for another magazine. At the moment, I’m not sure about them. They are firmly ‘innovative’, or ‘experimental’, and half the battle is working out what they are trying to do. It’s obvious that they have ‘something’, as there are many fine lines and phrases. I’m not totally in the dark, but haven’t quite got a handle on them yet.

What the best approach for a reviewer? Is it best to be tentative and say you’re not certain about various things? Or is it best to stick to points you are fairly sure of? The first way is honest, but might make some people think you are incompetent. The second isn’t quite honest and may not get to grips with a book as a whole, but it does at least avoid making idiotic mistakes. I suspect many more reviewers go this way than would admit to it.

At the moment, I have time to hope things start to sink in. That’s often the way it is with poems, even those I do ‘get’ immediately. I never like to rush down a reaction because my brain seems to work subconsciously over a period of time and I find more in good poems than I at first thought existed.

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