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October 29, 2014

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I think you're pretty enough!

-- loyal fellow obscure Ohioan

Terrific post. What you say about reviews is true. The better known, the more OK it is to criticize the writer. I call this the resentment index. And not reviewing books is a wise strategy for coping, and it means you have more time for other things, say I, who spent years making his living writing book reviews and other free-lance articles. I remember writing a few devastating reviews and then realizing that it was better for the soul as well more difficult (more usefully difficult) to avoid such bad books as you'd enjoy denouncing in favor of things you can praise even if with reservations. There is not a single American poet alive who is satisfied with his or her fate. That is one aspect of the state of American poetry.

Nin, you are amazing! I share all your feelings--it is embarrassing to self-promote, and yet I feel like a slacker when I don't do it. I am not on Facebook or Twitter. I don't even have a website! It seems to me women poets should NOT have to have pretty photos of themselves on the backs of their books. I mean, one of the perks of being a poet is writing in pajamas and not washing your hair for a few days. It's kind of creepy to think someone buys a book because they like the author's photo. Isn't that what porn is for? Or TV? Or even fashion magazines? I love Tom's poem "Blank (Don't Be Late)." My sentiments exactly.

Ew, Denise. You don't wash your hair for several days? Ew.

Methinks it's more to get them read than to get them reviewed. I can't think of any poetry I've read because of reviews. Finding readers--another thing entirely.

Halvard Johnson
halvard@gmail.com

Yes, I agree that getting read is the problem.

And I don’t know if reviews matter or not. Ages ago, my chapbook, Spontaneous Breasts, received a bad review in which the reviewer said, Nin Andrews is obsessed with breasts. She thinks they should grow larger and larger like penises. I have to admit, I liked the review. I wish I’d saved it.

More upsetting are reviews of books I admire. I remember a snarky review of The Oxford Book of American Poetry, long enough ago that I don’t remember what it said, but I do remember thinking, Oh, some poet thinks he should have been included in the anthology. The Oxford is my go-to anthology -- so much better and more readable that the thin-paged Norton’s. Did that review hurt? I hope not.

It’s funny to think that reviews of poetry might not make much difference, while reviews of everything from clothing to electronics to pet costumes on websites like Amazon matter so much that once, when I gave a bad review to a product, a representative from the company phoned and offered me money to take the review down.


And on another note—I think it was last week that I heard on NPR that the latest hair fad is oily hair. Women are spending a lot of money on expensive hair oils—that is, women who wash their hair more than every few days.

Nin, this is so good. It is new age, and I don't think you have to be media savvy, but boy does it help. You do not have to move to New York, though I'd love to have you in New York. This is an important post. Thank you.....

I agree with thee, Lady B.

I feel you. It's a Wen-Wen.

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