POETRY REVIEWS, IF LITERARY
CRITICISM OF POETRY INTIMIDATES.
The small presses and valiantly heroic (quixotic, cynics would have it) publishers of poetry have not given up on Canadian poetry, --- for that matter, poets who would not be touched by publishers with the proverbial 10-foot pole. They have cranked out the slim volumes with dogged regularity, year-in, year-out --- they have even gone on-line to snag those poems from poets who have little patience for publishers and editors; they suffer grumpy authors averse to buyer-pumping booksale sorties wherever there are bookshops who would accept consignments of poetry books which invariably gather dust or cobwebs in the least conspicuous corners of the bookstore; they lobby for grants from arts sponsors (e.g., Canada Council for the Arts, Ontario Arts Council); they even pray in their sleep that somehow, sometime, their published poets would win a Griffin Poetry Award, a Governor-General poetry prize, a CBS Poetry Award, the Giller Prize, a Pulitzer, or even (believe it or not) Friends of Dog Watch Open Poetry competition in Warlingham, Surrey, England.
Rather than bemoan this state of penury for poets and their publishers, I thought reviewing poetry publications or even on-line poetic effort would help. A poet reviewing other poets would be frowned upon as a "conflict of interest", or even worse, some pitiable literary onanism --- but whining about "lack of poetry market" is infinitely more abominable.
(FYI: Poet's Market, an annual directory of F&W Publications lists more than two thousand places "to publish your poetry"; of course, this directory sells better than any book of poems --- in 1999, the book sold over 300,000 copies. After all, it cited 400 new publishing opportunities, 1,100 journals and magazines, 200 chapbook publishers, 500 poetry book publishers, 200 contests and awards, 1,200 phone numbers of potential poetry publishers and publications, and more than 300 e-mail addresses and websites for on-line poetry.)
Is this reviewer needed then? If I had just one reader-reviewer reading my poems who would spend precious lifetime looking for achieved art in my work, I would be happy. That would increase my readership by one "perspicacious" reader in addition to my wife, my children, and grandchildren if any of them would even bother to read the "funny big words of gramps, and those million-dollar words that earn quite a pittance, indeed, eh wot?"
If these valiant poetry publishers could take the blistering ignorance of poetry snubbers, why can't I go back to what I used to do when I would lose my voice and sleep as a Lit and Creative Writing academic convincing students of poetry's value by even trying to dramatically read poetry in class a la-Basil Rathbone or Dylan Thomas!
Hence, this undertaking with Tightrope Books, and other poetry publishers to do "my bit for country and culture." Or die trying.
(See Part 2 in following Post on Tightrope Books)