Wednesday, February 22, 2006

For some reason, I'm thinking about reviews right now. Is it just me, or does it seem as if review editors are more or less wide-open valves these days?

Take a look at this review for instance. The publication in which it appears is barely more than a one-person show, so let's temper our criticism and stifle our guffaws. But isn't it incumbent on an editor to ensure his or her reviewers are informed and capable enough not to make fools of themselves (e.g., that the reviewer has thought to check a library catalogue—many are available online these days!—to see if the author he or she is considering has published anything else and that said reviewer is aware that "the message" isn't always the point)? Shouldn't review editors themselves, as Margaret Christakos pointed out once, do a little thinking about the books and ensure that the reviews in their publications serve some kind of critical function?

Just askin'.


Blogger functional nomad said...

All I can say in reaction to that review, is wow.

Raymond Knister, way back in 1929, argued that what Canada lacked was not talented writers, but talented reviewers, editors, and critics. Without that kind of infrastructure, Canadians were led to believe mediocre writing was sufficient. Furthermore, excellent writing was indistinguished from poor writing.

I think part of the reviewers responsibility is making informed evaluations, but also in conveying those evaluations respectfully and productively. If all you are doing is cantankerously disagreeing, then your commentary is not useful and therefore irrelevant. The review you point out is irrelevent for other, equally painful, reasons.

5:10 PM  
Anonymous Adam Seelig said...

were i the poet, i'd respond w/ what is commonly known as an "i-know-u-are-but-what-am-i riposte". it works, at least at this sophisticated level. see for selves:

"Although this point of view is legitimate, the poet [substitute 'critic'] fails to execute it because he is unable to get out of the way of his poems [substitute 'criticism']."

btw, dears, if u think this is bad, try the theatre!


7:54 PM  
Blogger a.raw said...

thanks for bringing up the role of the review editor into public discussion, mark. i have a jumble of thoughts, but am still formulating how best to articulate...

a couple of additional notes, if i may... the reviewer, randy nicholas, appears to have only written the one double-review for TDR in 2003. the URL in his bio line is now dead and, though he seems to operate a small poetry magazine out of whitby, i couldn't discern much more of a review publication track record...

unrelated, but i noticed on TDR's homepage the following: "New site for poetry reviews! Publishers stop sending TDR your poetry books and send them here -->" is this intimating that michael bryson may discontinue poetry reviews on TDR, or am i assuming too much from that passage?

11:54 PM  
Blogger ass2006 said...

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5:30 AM  
Blogger Daniel Sendecki said...

Great a Xanax link -- I've beem looking for cheap Xanax! Thanks ass2006!

Anyway -- Michael Bryson dialed back the reviews a couple of years ago, which was a shame, because I did enjoy them.

Anyway -- I've started up a community-run review outlet.

It's an augmented social network forcused on the small press community. It's been in development since Jay Millar posted the idea for a collective on his blog. I've been actively developing it for a while, but have just released the beta version. Check it out -- The Small Press Exchange.

8:43 AM  
Blogger Mark said...

Yeah, that bit from ass2006 is my first comment spam. I must admit that until I got it I was feeling a little left out.

Re: Small Press Exchange: I feel completely shitty for saying this considering all of the work that's gone into the site, but I'm confused about what you're hoping to accomplish with it. (I don't think it's helped you that everyone in on that discussion about collectives had a completely different idea of what a collective is.) I'm already feeling spread a bit thin in terms of my online activity. What are you doing? What's on that site that makes it a good idea to divert my attention to it?

Also, why are you requiring people to register? Will your site just replicate what's already going on but make it less accessible to the uninitiated and just plain curious? I must admit I'm a bit concerned about the advertizing you suggested might be involved. Also, I find it a bit odd that you have the name of the site trademarked.

I don't mean this in a mean-spirited way. I'm interested in what you have to say.

3:41 PM  
Blogger Daniel Sendecki said...

Of the comments that arose from Jay's Bookthug post on collectives, Lynn McClory's informed my conception of what the site would do...

She wrote: "a poetics collective as a space for dialogue on the net is much more exciting than a formal committee to promote poetry. and while small has manageability for closer discussion advantages, inclusiveness is important..."

The impetus behind the project was to create an augmented social network, one intended to be a tool to help extend creativity among individuals and enhance collaboration among those who share a common interest--writing, poetry, the small press, et al.

I threw a post on the Ahadada blog about The Small Press Exchange last night. Outlining three main objectives of the project:

1) To create a system that enables more efficient and effective knowledge sharing between people across institutional, geographic, and social boundaries;

2) To establish a form of persistent online identity that supports public commonalities and the values of the independent literary community; and,

3) To enhance the ability of poets and writers to form relationships and self-organize around shared interests in order to better engage in the creative process.

As for the community itself, I felt that it should be built on open standards, an initiative that would coordinate the efforts of many for the benefit of all.

Although, I see why you're hesitant, Mark -- as a couple of ideas that I had floated regarding advertising (my original idea was to set up a revenue sharing program, in order to pay for contributions from the community, ie interviews, reviews, et al) in retrospect appear to run contrary to the values that I seek to espouse. That the site name bears a trademark (not registered -- by the way) spoke more of my hope to create an identity for the community -- a difficult thing, of course, as the site is young and fresh and there is no community there yet to speak of!

I can certainly see where you are coming from in this respect and will now revisit both ideas. There is in fact no advertising on the site as of yet,

The registration, however, is necessary to a certain degree because of the nature of the online community. One's registration allows the site to be organized around profiles -- much like the friendster or myspace social networks. That these profiles are not publically accessible was intended to protect privacy. Upon reflection, however -- and your comments -- I can see that this makes the project appear to less accessible to the uninitated or curious. Of course, this runs counter to what I set out (and hoped) to achieve.

I certainly understand the importance of prioritizing one's time online -- and this was another goal of the project, as it was originally conceived. It's difficult for a person who is up to speed with what's happening in the canpo/canlit scene to keep abreast of what's going on, let alone the unitiated or the curious.

I hoped that providing space for online dialogue would help to organize our efforts online, acting as an index for our individual projects, our blogs, our writing both online and off -- a portal to the information that one seeks out again and again upon logon to the web.

In a certain sense it would replicate what's going on already, yet I hoped it to be a place where we could could extend our capabilities through integration or collaboration -- a place through which we could enhance what is already going on.

It's clear that a project of this nature is only as good as the sum of its parts -- and this, of course, would determine whether or not its worth further time investment from you or from anybody, although I think a project of this nature can provide a return on investment thats often not quantifiable.

And no need to feel shitty about raising valid points regardless of the work that's been put into it so far -- the project was established to serve the community, and as such, it need necessarily be shaped by the community.

Let me know what you think and thanks for the input!

5:07 PM  
Blogger Mark said...


Sorry not to have responded. I'm a little snowed under with various things right now.

I hope the project turns out. I'll spend a little more time thinking about it and possibly posting to the thread there soon.


10:07 PM  

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