Okay: here goes.
- Poetry is a communication — a message in a bottle. A review is a reply.
- There is no shortage of poets. But good poetry readers are rare. Reviewing helps you read well.
- Reviewing is educative. You look up the references, you look up the poet, you pay attention. You learn things you never knew you didn't know.
- Reviewing poetry gives craft insight: you see new tricks to try, and also some to avoid.
- Most poets like to have work reviewed. If you give reviews, you get reviews (not always in equal proportion).
- Poets need to write well in prose too. Reviewing (with an editor and some constraints) strengthens prose style and confidence.
- Poetry books are costly, especially if you read widely. But review copies are usually complimentary.
- Reviews are an art form. Writing them is creative.
- Reviewing strengthens your profile as a writer and extends your network.
- People sometimes think reviews are about criticism or praise. Not necessarily. They are (or can be) about expressing interest and encouragement.
- Reviewing is a way of paying respect to the community you're part of, putting your money where your mouth is.
- A book and its reviews are a conversation anyone can join, provided they use words carefully. Join the conversation!
Please take a look at sphinxreview.co.uk with its ongoing resource of OPOI reviews, and, if you can bear a few more emails in your inbox, subscribe to the list.
This will mean you get notifications about new material on the site, mainly new OPOI reviews. Such emails tend to come in little flurries when groups of reviews are posted. If it drives you nuts, you can unsubscribe at any time.
OPOIs are short reviews of poetry pamphlets which focus on only one point of interest (OPOI) in not more than 350 words.
Far more poets would like their pamphlets to be OPOI-ed than would like to write the OPOIs. Forty-three poetry pamphlets have been received for review this year so far, and only three new reviewers have offered their services. More are needed. Over 60 pamphlets are waiting hopefully.
Some poets don't have the confidence to write reviews. They are nervous of this role, which they see as authoritative and judgmental. OPOI reviews are neither. They are edited before they go public. They are a good thing to do, and if you are reviewing for the first time, the ideal place to start.