You see a lot of ink spilled these days lamenting the growing marginality of poetry, many heads scratched trying to figure out inventive new ways to make it relevant again to the common reader. The first front on which this resistance needs to be fought is of course the classroom (where, I truly believe, more and earlier emphasis on memorization and recitation is the key to seeding pleasure in poetry, as well as being indispensable to understanding it). But there’s obviously also a role to be played by intelligent, energetic criticism.
I can’t remember the last time I encountered a review of new poetry that didn’t feel airless, stuffy, and as if it had been written for the initiated few. I think this is less a symptom of arrogance than of laziness, cluelessness, or perhaps disillusionment on the part of reviewers, but the effect is toxic whatever the causes. Last Sunday, however, the Chicago Tribune provided a notable exception to this rule. If new poetry were more often reviewed as dashingly and accessibly as Maureen McLane does here, I submit, more people would read new poetry. (Warning: link will expire Jan. 11.)