Interview with Where Have All The Poetry Critics Gone? (profile)

Finding print reviews of poetry collections can be difficult so readers and writers of poetry have turned to the internet for criticism. By Joanna Ariel Beer

Much has been said and written about the proliferation of writing programs in the past fifty years. Hundreds, if not thousands, of college and graduate students devote themselves to the study of fiction, non-fiction and poetry. But, even with so many poets-to-be, reviews of poetry are few and far between. New books of poetry do not receive nearly as much attention as new books of fiction and non-fiction. We know it is not for lack of poets, so why then is poetry not as frequently reviewed?

The winners of Pulitzer Prizes often find their books reviewed, as do the Poet Laureates, and so finding the critics’ opinions of authors like Yusef Komunyakaa and Rae Armantrout is not too difficult. But reviews of non-laureates and Pulitzer-less poets are harder to find. Occasionally, new poets will break onto the scene and have a unique voice or stage presence that earns them reviews, as was the case for Tracy K. Smith. But, more often than not, looking online rather than in print for poetry reviews will yield more results. The Constant Critic, Ron Sillman’s blog, the Brooklyn Rail and, of course, The Poetry Foundation’s Harriet blog are great places to look for criticism.

Print on the whole, not just the poetry review, has been altered by the advent of the internet. Many, however, recognize that the internet offers the poetry review a new life. “The Internet...with its wide accessibility and unlimited space, will be the salvation of the poetry review,” writes Rigoberto Gonzalez.

The audience for poetry remains small and the internet is vast, making it difficult to happen upon poetry reviews in the same way that you can happen upon the Book Review section of the New York Times.  But, the venues exist and writers and readers of poetry have already begun to use them. Let us hope, as Keith Taylor does, that “young poets will still think reviewing is an essential part of the process of making poems.” 

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