So, this is the inaugural post–the real one rather than that generic one WordPress seems to have given me. I should, I suppose, explain what the hell I’m doing with this thing. In the first place, this is intended as a poetry-related blog–in other words, I won’t be discussing my day job, love life, family, routines, etc. And even within the realm of poetry-related blogs, which are legion, this blog attempts to do something rather specific. The idea came to me when my first book (Across the Grid of Streets, Dublin: Seven Towers, 2008 ) came out earlier this year, and I noticed that, among the little magazines, there were surprisingly few outlets to send the thing for review, either in Ireland or among the “formal-friendly” venues in the United States–and that the places that do reviews tend to review works by more established authors.
This is, to a degree, understandable. Small presses–and the authors associated with them–can have a fly-by-night quality. One wants to talk about “important” works, books that people are likely to read, and, for that matter, have a reasonable chance of finding in a bookstore near them. On the other hand, presses–and the authors on them–gain in reputation as more and more people say that this poet you’ve never heard of is good, or at least shows the capacity to get good.
I go to a lot of readings and have gotten into the habit, over the last few years, of reading a great deal of contemporary poetry, Some of it sucks. A lot of it is pretty forgettable… but some of it is really, really good. And it doesn’t necessarily get the attention it should by virtue of its authors, for whatever reasons, simply not having the connections or appearances in quite enough “leading” journals or a master’s degree from the right institution or what have you. I’m not saying that such works are necessarily consigned to oblivion (some do break through), but that breaking through can take a while, and it does not happen unless others lend their support. I hope to lend a bit of that necessary support.
When dealing with first and second collections, by and large, I see no purpose in pulling a demolition job, and if a book deserves one, I shall, in general, simply not review it. And as with everything else in the po-biz, there may be worthy books I just don’t get around to commenting on due to the constraints of everything else in my life. And there will be flawed but promising books discussed here, and I trust that their authors will realise that any criticism is intended to be constructive.
Further, I will talk, from time to time, about readings, both one-off readings and regular series, with or without open mics. Like them or lump them, these are an integral part of poetry today. They are a major source of book sales and both reflect and help shape the attitude that poets take toward that slippery bastard known as one’s “audience”. These have been discussed in public, of course (Galwegian poet Kevin Higgins has a vigorous defense of the poetry slam on the Poetry Ireland web site, for example), but they deserve sustained evaluation.
And I think that covers the basics.