the guild

I have... a fairly large file of reviewers’ emails (more of them from recent years) that apologise for not being able to review this or that book, on the grounds that it is a poor one, and that its author, or his or her publisher, would never forgive any reviewer who pointed that out. I, of all people, can hardly say such fears are groundless. The rise in the academic industry (maybe a better term would be the guild) of ‘creative writing’ has also, I suspect, helped to tighten lips: might not a ‘bad’ review, after all, be taken as a declaration that some (doubtless expensive) practitioner was not fit for their post, or worth the cost of their courses? Would lawsuits be far behind?...

The climate for critical reviewing of poetry is no better now than it was ten years ago; it may perhaps be worse; and I myself have no appetite either for the endless grudge-match against the professional promoters of poetry, for whom everything they promote must be beyond any kind of critical stricture, or for allowing intelligent and original younger critics to compromise their own prospects in the little creative/academic world where – maybe, one day, with a few breaks – they might end up making a living.

- Peter McDonald, summing up a phenomenon I experienced more than once while trying to drum up reviews for PRISM international, from his introduction to Tower Poetry Reviews: 2004-2014. You can read the whole thing here. Thanks to the Vehicule Press blog for pointing this out.

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