I wanted to point you to some new work up online. First, a selection of poans (poem-koans!) from The Self Unstable at Boston Review. They look like this:
I was bitten by a feral cat, who left her fang behind in my hand. My dream life has its own past, memories I only access when asleep. When something hurts in a dream, where do you feel the pain? Is there an analog in the real world? And likewise, for the beauty? If we can’t change the past, regret is a waste of time, but not worry or longing. Still, I prefer regret. If time is a vector, we are passengers facing the rear of the train.
Many thanks to Timothy Donnelly for selecting these pieces for the annual National Poetry Month feature.
Second, a long essay (refill your coffee) about Kate Zambreno's Heroines and its critical reception: "The Madwoman and the Critic." Here's a paragraph from the essay:
It’s risky to write a memoir, or anything resembling one, because you will inevitably be judged on the basis of your self, your personhood, and not simply your writing. You may find yourself to be an “unlikeable character.” And if a reader takes a strong dislike to you, they may have trouble disentangling that from their opinion of the book. Reading reviews of Heroines, even before I had finished the book, I wanted to argue with their authors, because the rhetoric felt suspect on its face. There has been a tendency to get personal, to reveal judgmental attitudes toward Zambreno’s life choices or her emotional responses. (Has she any right to be unhappy, to complain? Isn’t her life relatively cushy? But this of course is not how depression, how happiness, works.) But I’m not going to try to convince you to like Kate Zambreno. I just want you to take her seriously. Zambreno is a radical, and we need radicals. We need people who go too far and say too much, people who are so passionate they’re angry, who are a little out of control. Like a Michael Moore, she is probably not going to convince anyone on the far right to become a feminist, but she might convince a leftist that they’re not progressive enough.
It's basically an act of meta-criticism, and I use most of the space to dismantle two reviews of the book that I found particularly "problematic," in that they either misrepresent the book or attack it using the same dismissive language, used for years against women, that is essentially the subject of Zambreno's book.
I'd like to say more about my complicated feelings re: writing and publishing this essay, but I'm not sure how. Suffice it to say that I am not against "negative reviews" done right; I don't believe in sparing the artist's feelings. However, I take issue with spiteful, unfair, or manipulative hatchet jobs. To avoid what I call dismissive criticism, you should come to a book generously, read it carefully, and engage with it honestly before laying down judgment. If you're incapable of doing that (because you hate the book on sight, say), maybe don't review it?