Ah, Jan Zwicky. Someone I would like to hear more from, more often and in various venues. Anne Carson too for that matter--but she seems unwilling to comment on anything, not even her own career, which has been impressive and of course, subject to great suspicion on the part of fellow Canadian poets--didn't one critic call her our "national embarrassment"? And of course, when the essay I've excerpted below was published in the Malahat Review I recall much scorn being bandied about suggesting that she lacked balls and wanted to be soft. Evaluative criticism is inherently negative, so the thinking seems to go.
I've realized that the more hate I get the closer I am to doing something real.
This is particularly true for women. To be a public woman is to be a caricature. It's to admit you aren't easily controlled. You might bite. Sad, that reality, but there you go. To have opinions is to be difficult. Or, as the Cancer Society kindly informed Don Draper, folks appreciate you speaking the truth but they'll never work with you--who can trust the hand that bites?
Unlike Zwicky, I do think there's room for a hard-hitting review. Even a take-down when necessary. I usually don't agree with what people call negative, but I can see mean-spirited from a mile away.