Jon Stone doing an impression of modern poetry criticism (ie. sucking... hah!)
Really interesting piece on the fantastic Fuselit blog last night about the lacklustre nature of modern literary criticism in poetry world:
"The problem here is this: all these blandishments and upbeat noises cover up real issues, debate and conflict within poetry that, were the separate strands to find their voice, would be far more enticing to the average Guardian reader (and others beyond), since they invite negotiation and navigation. The soft sell results in nothing but the reader noting, perhaps with a warm feeling, that poetry is doing all right for itself, before moving on."
Jon Stone makes some extremely well observed and insightful points in this article, and I firmly suggest that anybody involved in review-writing should go check it out.
One thing that Jon talks about in his piece, is the vagueness with which a poet's subject matter is often covered in reviews. I am almost certain that this is sometimes caused by the internet-literate poet's ability to publicly ridicule people (or at least throw their toys out of the iPram on Facebook), combined with the cryptic nature of many modern poetry collections.
In a society where internationally accessible public comment is available to almost every poet, and the vast majority of reviews now have a handy little 'comments' section at the bottom of them, wouldn't you be scared of taking any sort of hard line on a collection of poems, for fear that you'd missed something important or entirely misinterpreted a text (I do realise that many people would fire back at me with 'but my dear boy, there IS no such thing as misinterpretation!', but they're wrong)?
With Desmond Swords around every corner and flame-wars imminent with every mildly contestable utterance made, no wonder that poetry reviews are always padded out with such non-commital guff as 'hers is surely a poem of the every day, and of great rarity' and 'one gets the sense of a poet sat contemplating life in this collection'. Best bet is probably for us to stay in our gang-huts until we've crafted the perfect nomenclature with which to discuss poetry in it plainest sense.