Daily Notes on Poetry & Related Matters

18 November 2005: Today a mixed review of the second issue of Dirt, a zine published by Persistencia* under the editorship of PR Primeau Press. I applaud its inclusion of such poems as J. Michael Mollohan's two below:

I'm also pleased with Primeau's having done a review of my Runaway Spoon Press's anthology of pwoermds, Ampersand Squared--but bothered by its flaws. For instance, Primeau says at one point that "With hypnotic delicacy, the poets of Ampersand Squared reveal their worlds with striking immediacy and energy only possible through such a brief form." Why don't I like this? It's complimentary. But he provides no examples, which would be easy to do, since the poems in the anthology are each only one word in length. He provides no names of the anthology's contributors. He only notes "a few shallow pieces" (perhaps the same ones I noted privately to editor Geof Huth when he was preparing the anthology, one of them my own "whomb"). In these, "poetry slips into pun; art turns to juvenile wordplay." No examples. That's very frustrating. Examples pin down where a reviewer's taste is, to give a reader a chance to compare it with his own. They are the best window to what's in a book, as well.

I would have liked some amplification of his assertions, too. Surely, he can't mean that the pun-centered powermds are all "juvenile wordplay." Is Ezra Mark's "gnowing" that, for instance?

Primeau is similarly limited in his review of Dan Waber's webzine, Minimalist Concrete Poetry, although it would be easy enough for a reader of his review to go to the URL Primeau provides for examples. He does better, I think, in his reivew of John M. Bennett's pleatlet, Mud Lamp. No examples, but at least a good description of the poems in the little collection, each of them containing "a bleeding letter surrounded by squiggles plucked straight from a dream...or a bad acid trip." Still, an example would have been nice--and a more detailed explication of one of the pieces.

But it's great to have any reviews printed of these kinds of work, and Primeau's are certainly better than the kind of reviews most poetry gets in the mainstream. And the virtues of Dirt vastly outweigh the small flaws I perceive in its reviews. More on the zine in tomorrow's entry--if I can find words for my fascination with Mollohan's poems.

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