The reviewing thread seems to have turned largely to a discussion of ethics/back-scratching, which I think is okay but, come on. This is a small world; nobody's going to review us poets but us poets. The marketing value of any review is that it mentions the name and title of a book and gives maybe some sense of what it's about and whether I should bother with it; a nasty review can do this as well as a good one. The number of outlets that review poetry where column-inches are such a precious commodity that we should get upset about it is laughably few.
I'm sorry to hear that Simon DeDeo has decided to quit over this discussion (and I'm no stranger to melodramatic departures), but I rather wish his farewell hadn't had the tone of a kiss-off. I've been thinking on and off over the course of the day whether I should even say anything about it, and I probably shouldn't, but it's been bugging me. Perhaps it is because I do occasionally write about underpants.
Hey, we're all "shouting into a void." It's taken me two-and-a-half years of fairly regular blogging to become what DeDeo calls one of the "usual suspects," and I doubt I have that many more readers than he does. Don't throw in the towel after six months because the Great Public hasn't found you yet. If you believe in the work you're doing, and it's productive for you and those who read you, keep doing it. For God's sake don't do it as a public service.
I suspect DeDeo's frustrated because his blog is an example of what he, and many others, would call real reviewing, not the diaristic fluff the rest of us produce. DeDeo says his blog has been about the actual practice of poetry, perhaps a cousin of the "actual poems" some wished we would return to about a month ago. Well, there's more than one way to skin that cat.
DeDeo missed the unspoken assumption of this discussion, which is precisely that blogs are not best seen as repositories of reviews. From Jordan's perspective, that's why we need a "paper of record," a print forum for the more formal work of evaluation and filtering that reviews do. From my perspective, blogs represent a shift away from the culture of print reviewing as the primary way to sift through contemporary writing--a shift that simply reflects real changes in the way poetry is produced and read. That isn't to say reviews aren't still important. I write them too. But for me they're closer to my academic work, written when I have something that I think is reasonably interesting to say about a book that seems important.
And the blog is something else again. I realize that DeDeo's comments aren't directed at me: you'll never find out what kind of underpants I'm wearing. But they are directed at some of the blogs I think are important, which do have precisely that mix of the critical, creative, and diaristic. It's odd to demand that one of the few forums in which poets and critics freely talk to each other (and in which that endangered species, the poet-critic, seems to have new life) live up to a standard of critical decorum.
Okay, Simon, I'm off my high horse. Just blogger to blogger: you've done good work and developed an audience, which is all any of us can do.