Tuesday, September 27, 2005

At Least Look It Up, Would You?

Pet Peeve Alert: a "positive" review of a poetry product that reveals the ignorance of the reviewer.

In the library today, I picked up a copy of Book Page, a free paper whose sole function seems to be advertising new books. Therein, I found a microreview of the new Billy Collins Live. Without meaning any disrespect to the reviewer, whose other reviews I found useful and informative, her treatment of the Collins CD is just awful.

The review opens with this comment: "... I have a mad, albeit intellectual, crush on ... Billy Collins... and, more importantly, you don't have to like poetry or know anything about its structure or esoteric intricacies to love Collins' work." So, you love the former poet laureate because ("more importantly"!) you don't have to know diddly about poetry to love him. None of those inconvenient esoteric intricacies. That's encouraging. That would make a great blurb.

Later: "I can't think of a more listener-friendly poet, a fresher voice...". I need to ask: Fresher than what? And what does listener-friendly mean? Small words? Slow cadence? Poems about everyday objects? While I do enjoy Collins, I find his reading style to be a little monotonous. Stack him up against Coleman Barks at the Dodge festival, or even Sharon Olds (and let's not even mention more theatrical performers like Sekou Sundiata) and he's a weak cousin - he's a great speaker, but not a great reader. I've seen performances on Def Poetry Jam which might not have been as well crafted as his poems but were much more engaging to the ear than typical live Collins.

And the clincher - the truest sign of a fictionally positive review: "Don't miss (this CD), his first appearance on audio". Excuse me, but this is just wrong, and it would have taken nothing more than a simple Google search to turn up a prior recording. An error like that, one which the most casual of Collins fans could spot (not to mention one who purports to have a "mad...crush" on the man) sours me to everything else in the review. I simply don't believe any of it.

Is it wrong of me to dismiss the whole review based on that factual miss? Or is it reasonable to think a reviewer of poetry might find a few minutes to, you know, take in a little poetry?

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