“The great review is one that approaches the corpus curiously and dissectively, determining if it works and what makes it tick.” –Vanessa Place
Who wants a dull review? A good reviewer is a skilled host: ensure your guests’ enjoyment, present the fare slowly, artfully, and with flourish so it speaks for itself. Make your guests want more. Make us want more.
If Poetry is thinking made visible, reviewing is thinking about the thinking in the poetry made visible. A reader wants a review to make her think.
Look for the larger questions the book may pose. An endorsement is not a review. A review gives analysis, not an impressionistic response. Articulate the larger project of a book, rather than simply synopsize.
What are the text’s particular struggles? What is at work, and how is it working? Are there central questions? Is the work original? Important? How is the book read in its historical, political, and commercial contexts? What is its significance in its field?
Ask intelligent and hard questions while always being respectful to the text. There is a difference between respectful and hard questions and a vitriolic attack. As for the latter, the reader gets a sense of the reviewer’s beef as opposed to the meat of the text in question.
You are familiar with the text, you have read it twice, thrice or you have at least performed a close reading of a couple of poems, or you have considered the work in terms of the author’s oeuvre, or the canon within which it speaks, or you address the dialogue it begs of other canons, if applicable. Check out the list of interviews On Reviewing, also over at Constant Critic, Poetry and Believer. We are looking for diversity, not sameness. Take downs if they can walk the talk, are welcome, as well as straight up enjoyment of the text and whatever in between you can do with style.
Like or don’t like isn’t the point. If you can do this in under 1500 words we want you. Queries and samples to Laura at reviewslemonhound (@) gmail.com. Comments on Lemon Hound closed while we’re in transition. Merci. Watch out for more, and various calls.
“I argue with the work. I take it on face value and see if it stands scrutiny and thumps on the skull. Is it a fine thing among fine things of its kind? Is it a terrible thing, or is it the kind of second-rate thing that Eliot commended as that lesser version of fine from which we may learn or crib something for ourselves.” –Vanessa Place
Laura Broadbent is a writer, reader, and illustrator from Montreal. Her book OH THERE YOU ARE I CAN’T SEE YOU IS IT RAINING? won the 2012 Robert Kroetsch award and will be coming out with Snare Books in the fall. She is reviews editor at Lemon Hound.
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