Sunday, March 04, 2007


Lately I have been writing a number of reviews for Lynx and to a lesser extent, Modern English Tanka. Poets who would like to submit tanka books for review may contact me at kujaku at verizon dot net to make arrangements.

As a rule, I will not review a book unless I can find something positive to say about it. That does not mean that all my reviews are glowing effusions; quite the opposite. I am a critical reviewer, which is to say, I try to describe the book fairly and accurately, but kindly, noting its flaws and assets, and giving an honest representation of the material so that readers who do not share my taste in books can still determine if it is something they might like to read, regardless of what I think of the book.

I expect works committed to paper (or other permanent media) to look like the author knows and cares about posterity. That is to say, I expect decent physical production values, competent use of grammar -- vernacular and dialect are perfectly acceptable --, some artistic merit, adequate editing, adherence to the basic conventions of book design, etc. When the rules are departed from, I expect it to be for good reason, and not due to ignorance or sloppiness. As already mentioned, vernacular and dialect are acceptable to me, so I have a great deal of tolerance for non-standard grammar and vocabulary, but I expect the poet to use his tools competently.

I am friendly to novice poets, but I expect the poet to have sufficient maturity to take critiques he disagrees with in good spirit, accepting what he can use, and not arguing with me about the rest. It is critically important for the poet to realize that the poem is not the poet, and that to point out flaws in a poem or its presentation is not an attack on the poet, but an honest and fair evaluation of the work itself, as itself.

I understand the limits of small press and self-publication, but I expect the poet to do the best he is able within the limits of his budget and skills. I strongly recommend that he or she have an experienced editor (not friend or fellow poet) give honest feedback on the material and its presentation. This does not mean being a slave to the opinions of others; but it does mean learning and abiding by the conventions of the genre and its production values and marketing methods.

The publication of a work of poetry is not merely an act of literature, but a business contract, and the poet had better conduct himself in a business-like way. He had better deliver a good value of sufficient quality to justify the price he asks for his work; to do less will leave the reader feeling like he has been ripped off. He ought to deliver his books by the methods advertised in a timely fashion, and be prompt about resolving any problems that arise.

One of the most important of my standards: I review tanka. If it doesn't have at least half a dozen tanka in it, I'm not interested. I don't care how fantastic you think your novel/free verse/play/comic strip/other work is; I don't review them. Period.

I think my standards are clear and fair, and if you agree, feel free to approach me about having your tanka reviewed. My reviews typically appear in Lynx and Modern English Tanka. If you don't think you can live up to the minimal standards here, please don't waste my time or yours.


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