Wednesday, March 6, 2024

Reviews, Visits, the Work

I have published a handful of reviews of poetry collections since completing Pacific's MFA program, and I have one scheduled to come out in the near future (thank you, Colorado Review!), one due to be submitted in the next two weeks (thank you, Pedestal Magazine!), and another I expect to write and send out shortly after that. (Check out Nancy Miller Gomez's Inconsolable Objects, folks.)

Review writing is its own thing, quite different from poetry itself - although the more I study what other writers are doing, have done, with their work, the more I understand about what I am doing and/or not doing well in my own. The time it takes to read and interpret and distill and present, as articulately as possible, the contents and qualities of a new poetry book, is extensive. For me, anyway. It can take me around eighty hours, I think, on average, to write the 750-1000 words that might eventually be put in print or online. Perhaps I'm just really slow. Or overthink things. (Maybe I'm overthinking this, for example.) But I have to admit that I really enjoy the forming of the piece - taking the pages and pages of notes and trying, very hard, with that lumpy pile of wet clay, to eventually make a container that will hold water. It's a metaphor that is perhaps too easy, and one I've used before - but it really does feel like a kind of smoothing and shaping. I enjoy it. And I've been told that reviewers are often in demand. So if I'm able to write something that can be used, and I enjoy the slow, usually cumbersome, but also rewarding, process - why not do it?

Ives Hall, SSU

Yesterday I was honored to visit a poetry class at Sonoma State University, having been invited by the professor, Kathleen Winter, who is not only a fantastic poet but also, clearly, an excellent teacher. I envied the students having her to guide them. 

It seemed like this class, like Kathleen's intro to writing class I visited via Zoom last semester, was full of engaged young writers. I wished I could hear or read some of their work, because I'm sure it was unique and exciting. I think there's a whole generation of important voices that will be emerging in the poetry world in the coming years. 

It inspires me to keep at it, and try new things. What do I have to say that no one else can say, and that would matter? And how well, how truly, can I say it? Isn't that what we all ask ourselves?

No comments: