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 . . .

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