Friday, November 04, 2005

Effect of a review

My first book had only one review -- basically trashing it.

My second has had two reviews, both to praise it.

In the five years between, I've learned a little detachment. But the harder of the two to resist is the praise, I find. Odd, that you want to become everything that a reviewer praising you might claim. One of the things I've especially been pondering from Terri Brown-Davidson's laudatory review is the idea of being a "difficult poet." She likens Femme au chapeau to a Frida Kahlo painting (I love that!) and calls the poetry "gorgeously offputting in its metaphoric twists, mesmerizingly complex, startling and horrific in its images, and yet so unique that it lives on in its own terms ... and demands the reader accept them."

I didn't quite realize the poems were complex. I did know the images were sometimes startling and even horrific.

I suppose I could see in retrospect that I set a standard for this book that might be demanding. My goal was to define an intense field of intertwined sound and sense -- a space of heightened senses to push the reader over the edge of quotidian awareness into an expansion. In short, to recreate the intensity of inspiration that began each of these poems. I selected out (I hope) the conversational, relaxed, essayistic or prosily narrative poems of those five years in order to create this compressed experience. I weeded out the themes to the most emotionally packed. I wanted this book to land a punch, in other words.

But I find myself now wondering how to continue at this intensity. I'm finding the syntax breaking up, the music wanting to come even more to the fore. But I'm afraid of that Stevens territory. I have spent time there, and find in the end that the world of Wallace Stevens is too self-referential, too self-invented. A bit Tolkien-ish, like the scholar who invented a world to go with his invented language.


In other news . . .

Blogging Poet's 100 Poet Bloggers in 100 Days is here. Blog yourself dizzy.


  1. Thanks for the link. I added you to

    Also, yes, I do have 40 some days to go but I'm planning to continue to figure out how to promote even more poets.

  2. Thanks for adding a link. I'll continue to follow your accumulating links.


  3. come join us rachel at taking the brim

    i've sent you an invite

  4. PS.. Id be interested to see more of what you are saying about Steven's being self referential. After all, his music is so strong, and he , well lets say he comes from a French surrealistic tradition modified by his middle American values?... just a thought...

  5. Rachel,

    You make a good point about the alluring nature of positive criticism. That stuff is hard to ignore.

    I wanted to be a difficult poet, and it lasted about two poems before I recognized that I just can't hack it.

    Interesting post.


  6. Julie, I still don't have a clue what being a "difficult poet" really means. I think it's a fancy term for "I had to re-read this twice to get it." Rachel

  7. Ha! Yes, I think that was what I was aiming for. I've settled for "You might have to give minor attention to this, but no pressure!"

    Mainly because I realized that if I wanted to write difficult poetry, I had to be smarter than I currently am.