Those of you who've read Sphinx 10 will know all about the pilot po-rating system which now manifests itself at the end of some of the pamphlet reviews in the archive in the shape of a little Sphinx with a certain number of stripes. Ten stripes is super-great and if anybody ever gets that kind of rating from three reviewers I would want to read that publication. I would probably want to read a nine too. Seven is pretty damn good. Five is not half bad. One stripe is oh dear oh dear oh dear.
But it's more complicated than that. And better, too. What I intend to do in future is to secure three reviews for each poetry pamphlet featured on the website. Each of the three reviewers will also rate the publication and from their rating a 'stripe' aggregate will be derived.
I will also link to any other reviews on the net, provided publishers, readers or poets alert me to those.
This is a very comprehensive review option -- the best I've heard of. It will work in the interests of good quality work, I think. However, it will probably do the reverse for some of the weaker publications, at which point I shall get hate mail. Sigh.
Some worthy publications may not come out as top stars. But that's not necessarily doom. Thankfully we don't all want (or need) to win Britain's (or any other country) Got Talent. Poetry doesn't (or shouldn't) work like that. It is an art.
The stripe rating, though a bit alarming in some ways, is not the be-all and end-all either. I've often found a single poem I love in a pamphlet which I don't rate highly as a whole, and in that case, it will be possible to draw attention to that in the review.
Ok. Here's how it will work.
If you want a publication reviewed on the Sphinx site, you will need - obviously - to send three copies. If you can spare four, I will get the Common Reader or Young Reader to take a look too and throw in their tuppence worth. This sounds demanding, but it is demanding at this end too. It means lots of posting copies to reviewers, lots of hard work from reviewers, lots of collating, editing, website organisation and so on.
I need to limit the material we handle to some extent. So here are some 'rules' defining what, for the purposes of this site, will be considered as 'pamphlets' or 'chapbooks' eligible for review:
- single-author publications of between 20 and 36 pages (excluding preliminaries);
- saddle-stitched, stapled or sewn publications (perfect bound publications are unlikely to fit the category);
- publications must be ISBN numbered, though self-publications are not excluded;
- pamphlets must be in print, available for purchase and published within twelve months of being submitted for review.
Each of the three reviews is likely to be 300-500 words long. Expensively produced artist publications or very short-run limited signed editions are not suited to this arrangement because it's too costly to send them and they may not be available for purchase by the time the reviews appear. However, I will list them, with a brief description, during a new publications round-up quarterly, if you choose to send in a single copy for that purpose.
The 'stripe' rating will be arrived at by asking each reviewer to 'rate' the publication, out of ten under the following categories:
- production quality (paper, covers, 'feel' and design of publication);
- quality of poetry;
- coherence and/or originality of the collection as a whole;
- how warmly the reviewer would recommend it.
Each rating is out of ten. The reviewers return their rating to me. I add them up and divide by four. Bingo. I may (haven't decided yet) also publish the rating (not as a logo but as a number, like ice-skating) for each category, since that's also quite interesting. The review system will itself be reviewed as we go along.
Please pass on the word that things have changed if you know anyone sending in pamphlets for review or thinking about it. Otherwise, I may feel morally bound to post them back, which may create another rant about stamps.