the unbearable weightedness of reviewing


my new review of Bruna Mori’s Derive just went live at RAIN TAXI

check it out…

if you read my exchange with eileen a few posts down…you will think this is funny because not only was Derive published by eileen’s press Meritage. but Mori also uses homophonic transliteration! not only that, i am ever so lightly critical–in the very particular context of the work. hopefully i wont get any shite for this review.



4 thoughts on “the unbearable weightedness of reviewing

  1. Hey Craig, this is quite a good “engagement” of Bruna’s text. I honestly don’t know what shite is to be had as a result!

    But in re: review, I wonder if perhaps an additional “step” might have been helpful here – whether or not you as a reader and/or as a writer enjoyed reading this, or admired it for what you have engaged in your reading of it? Does that make sense?

    I ask these questions re: review in general, and whether review necessarily entails that endorsement or opposite of endorsement.


  2. no shite to be had indeed. tho a few mistakes in the review which should be fixable.

    and good point about the additional step. it’s something im definitely noticing in my reviews…a ‘friend’ made fun of me and said that i dont really like or dislike anything i read. this is probably true, i just get so lost in it sometimes you know?

    thanks for commenting…i will work on this for sure…


  3. Thinking of the many review venues out there–Rain Taxi, the Boston Review, American Book Review, the Poetry Project Newsletter–and mostly being disappointed when the reviewer inevitably:

    (a) begins a review with some absurd Manichean “People doing X mostly miss the mark, but Y is different because …” or

    (b) ends the review with some neat evaluative, or worse, epiphanic, sum-up

    … well, I finally don’t care _what_ the reviewer’s opinion is.

    What I want from a review is some sense–almost always a much fuller sense than I get–of the nature of the project under review.

    Tough to get that when it’s buried under a mountain of some reviewer’s preconceived ideas and preferences.

    Not that opinion is out of place in reviews–at all–but that for any real engagement with a text, the reviewer has to be present enough to see/hear/grok what’s going on. Too often, that step–sometimes merely out of consideration for space (e.g., book reviews in print tend to be relatively short)–is given short shrift, often even ignored altogether.

    I liked this review very much, Craig–as well as your Javier and Magee reviews–neither of which was without opinion, for the simple fact that you really did the work too many people don’t bother with: engaging with the work, with what the poet is up to, and how what they’re up to is made manifest in the words on the page, prior to judging it.

  4. thanks gary!

    def agree about how in some reviews the text gets buried in the reviewers preconceived preference. these are always painful for me to read since the reviewer can never really prove the validity of their opinions.

    one thing nice about the online venues is that they are usually open to longer reviews, reviews that can engage with the text and can take the step that barbara suggests.

    tho, this is too often determined by the journal. i’ve had many reviews rejected from places with the editors saying that the review wasnt opinionated enough–that they couldnt get a sense of how i FEEL. i wont argue with that….but i simply resist writing that kind of review.

    as in, these editors dont think a reviewer’s opinion/feelings is only a ‘step’, but the whole frickin staircase! (or something).

    anyhow, thanks for the comments!!! am learning a lot here!

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