Lecture for an Empty Room
Fragments of a work-in-progress;
& the main thing is we begin with a white sink a whole new language is a temptation.
Bernadette Mayer, Memory (2020)
I’ve begun to wonder if contemporary book reviewing, specifically for poetry and fiction titles, is a form of privilege: a decreasing percentage of venues able to provide payment, and how numerous younger writers can’t afford to give away work. Has engaged book-conversation shift to something beyond the realm of easy possibility? As it is, most poetry titles even by the established publishers are often met with minimal response. Reviewing reduced into discussions of a small handful of big name titles, with all else composed by overworked university-affiliated reviewers, attempting to achieve or retain university employment. I am highly aware of the position I’ve been able to take on, a position I carved and clawed out of scraps, able to manage a reasonable enough life to write at all, let alone review gratis for my daily blog. It makes me push harder, especially for debut poetry titles, but it makes me wonder about how the larger conversations might suffer if the younger writers, as critics, reviewers and readers themselves, aren’t in the thick of it.
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