Restless Messengers: Poetry In Review

Why a poetry review blog? And why now?

Greetings! The idea of a blog of this sort might strike some readers as old-fashioned, if not positively quaint. Isn’t the heroic age of literary blogging long past? Hasn’t social media done it in? Perhaps. As for poetry reviewing, there appears to be surprisingly little of it being published. It seems to have been largely replaced by the invective and overheated tweeting of call-out culture. Is there a fair-minded readership that loves poetry and is willing to take the time to engage with more than a paragraph or two about a new book? A readership which hasn’t already made up its mind about a given poet on the basis of style, politics, age, identity? Again, perhaps. I’m willing to take a chance and see, at least for a little while.

I have had one guiding principle when it comes to writing about poetry: whether the poet is well known or not, I want to explain why he or she should be read. According to my poetic values, which I hope become clear as I discuss a particular book, I want to explain to my readers why they should take the work seriously. If it’s a poet who is relatively obscure, I want folks to know why he or she deserves more attention. Above all else, I would like to help my readers discover how and why the work is smart, provocative, moving, consoling, visionary, and beautiful.

My plan, then, is to write a review of a relatively new book of poems once every couple of weeks, or more often if I’m feeling inspired. Once in a while I will invite a friend to a review a book here too. And speaking of friends, I’m going to be honest: I have quite a few friends who are active poets whose work I admire—indeed, in many instances they’ve become my friends because they have written work I admire—and I’m going to review them here. But it will not be praise alone I offer, because I want to analyze and evaluate the work which moves me, the work that I value not only as a reader, but as a fellow poet too.

Therefore, do not look for a lot of hatchet jobs on this blog. Sometimes I’ve seen the point of writing a negative review in order to question an inflated reputation (the Emperor’s New Clothes, if you will). I’ve never been an especially confrontational critic: I would rather let that reputation deflate on its own, as it usually does.­­ But if you follow along with me, you will soon learn about the sorts of poetry I most admire.

Thanks for your attention!

Post by Norman Finkelstein on 7/13/2020 at 8:30 PM