Monday, March 05, 2012

Brief notes: Vanessa Place, Constant Critic Panel, AWP

I'm a fan of Consant Critic. I was surprised to realize it's been 10 years now. I think Fence is also 10 years (I'm also a fan of that). I became aware of the site via Jordan Davis, whom I met after he reviewed Lemon Hound  way back, and I've kept reading. Mostly because, as Rebecca Wolff points out, there is such a diversity of vision and style here and you know, I don't want to know what a reviewer is going to think about a book before I start reading a review....though I do want to know that there will be a consistent kind of looking, or an integrity of vision even if I don't agree with the reviewer, and that, she said, was her objective: consistent reviews.

Timely as well. Wolff points out that most people don't understand the need for poetry books to be reviewed in a timely manner--hence the pre-publication sweep that happens in the fiction world. Not having a book reviewed delivers a critical death blow.

As for the panel, good points from all, Sueyen's dedication to reviewing books that are under-reviewed, or poets that are under-known, her position then as creating audience for work she loves. With that in mind, her response to work she doesn't love? Silence. This fact arose from a quick discussion of the negative review. I still don't think we understand what negative is...

Vanessa responded to this question by noting the problem of the receiver: You get the review you deserve, she suggests. It isn't up to a reviewer to give glowing reviews. It's up to a review to engage with a text. So, the reviewer is always right, even if the reviewer has grossly misread your text. That's the problem of the author though, the author and "Misplaced expectation and its plump twin, disappointment…"

Karla Kelsey, reviewers editor, offered a meander through the ten years, offering some of the "key moments" from each year. I wish I had taken more notes because her examples were really great and made it clear that the review is a chance for a writer to really strut another kind of thinking/writing and if a review isn't as well crafted as one's own writing it's disappointing.  Two points that stood out:
Jordan Davis 2009 on the problem of the one big poem and “nothing getting through” and “not caring” which yes, I get and now will have to go back and read... and then Vanessa Place “the connective moment of the delivery…”.

Here's a snippet of Vanessa Place's paper, "How To Get Reviewed by Vanessa Place",  for the Constant Critic panel at AWP. It was great to hear everyone--Karla Kelsey, Rebecca Wolf and Sueyeun Juliette Lee--but even greater to hear Vanessa's piece because she was so well prepared. She made me laugh. She had great points, and she delivered it with clarity and forcefulness. How to get reviewed by VP?
1. Write a good book.
2. Write a good book.
3. Write a good book....
Wish I had taped it all, but as I said, here's a tease:

Finally, just to note that I loved the fact that the panel was all women. Sorry, but we need to have more panels that happen to be all women but not about women. Course, then we need to have the dudes attend those panels. It was, from my quick scan of the audience, more women than men for an all-woman panel. But we know that right? You either have to be a dude or have received enough dude nods to really have the critical cojones to pack an audience. If a dude is not on a panel does it rate a mention over a beer?

You have to, as Vanessa Place suggests, be a master and make the dudes want to bite your scorching little toe nails...

Here's Karla Kelsey on Lisa Robertson's R's BoatVanessa on Sawako Nakayasu , Ray McDaniel on Evie Shockley,  and Sueyen on Cara Benson but you can find your own favourite on the site.

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