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Thursday, November 24, 2011

Gailey on Getting Reviewed

Poet Jeannine Hall Gailey blogs about how to get your book reviewed here.  A veteran reviewer, Gailey tells how she and others who review poetry choose which books they will spend their time commenting on. Then she provides specific tips for bringing your book to a reviewer's attention, including: put a personal note in with the book copy you send to the reviewer, follow up later, and make suggestions about which literary magazines might be receptive to a review of your book.

Gailey's final tip was one that really hit home: be a reviewer yourself. Gailey admits that she is more motivated to review a book by a given poet when that person's website or blog (or personal note) mentions their own reviewing activity. Plus, it's one way of giving back to the literary community, whether anyone rewards you for it with a review of your book or not.

I have never written any reviews, mostly because it never occurred to me that anyone would value a review written by an MFA-less, poetry-self-educated person like myself. But now I am wondering if there is a place for a review by me somewhere.

Recently I have noticed a few journals that list books they have received for review and which they would be happy to send a volunteer reviewer.

Rattle's online review policy, for example, includes the following: "...we offer the E-Review forum. Almost anything goes here — reviews can be very brief or very long, they can be high praise or healthy criticism. If you read a book and you have a reaction, write up a review and send it in. We encourage the personal narrative in particular (see this note). We’ll screen for content and quality, and we won’t be able to put everything online, but if you have something useful to say, that others might want to hear, we will. Just follow the guidelines here, or request a book from this list. And if you’re just looking for a good book, go ahead and browse." This paragraph follows an explanation of why Rattle has gone to an all-online policy for reviews, including the spatial problems print issues face in reviewing more than a few books, any chapbooks at all, or prose books.

Another journal that I noticed as offering review copies to people willing to review is Verse Wisconsin, whose reviewing guidelines you can find at this link. Scroll to the bottom of the page for guidelines, and look to the right column (beginning at the top of this page) for a list of books available for review.

I'm sure there are many other journals that would be happy to have reviewers volunteering their services. I've only started keeping my eye out for them recently, so these are the first ones I've run across. If you've had success placing an unsolicited review with a journal, let us know!


Mari said...

Jessica, you can contact a particular poet and ask for a review copy, which I've done myself. Most poets will be thrilled that someone is interested in reviewing their book and will be happy to send you one. Although I've published very few poetry book reviews, I've on occasion approached publishers directly and asked for a review copy. FYI, Connotation Press's Book Review Editor Stephanie Brown is always looking for book reviews (poetry and non-poetry), so email her if you have something in mind to review. Tell her I sent you! : )

Personally, I am turned off by super-academic, super-heady reviews that suck the life out of the work under consideration; instead, as a reader I appreciate (and find more helpful) an intelligent and thoughtful *response* to the book.

Jessica Goodfellow said...

Hi Mari, Thanks for your specific recommendations and advice. I will try them after I spend some time reading reviews carefully and learning what I can about the craft of writing them. I had not considered contacting a poet directly, which is a great idea. I know I'd be thrilled if anyone contacted me in that manner.

Like you, I am not interested in overly academic ones (largely because I don't have the background to follow them, but you do, and still don't enjoy them, so I'll take that as a warning), so I was really attracted by Rattle's policy.

Mari said...

I remember Sharon Olds (who has a PhD in English from Columbia) telling us in workshop at NYU: "We're poets, not scholars." Of course there are some poet reviewers who manage to hold both, with varying success, but I don't consider myself a scholar by any means (and my temperament is more attuned to emotional, relational, and aesthetic tone and meaning in poetry). I think you'd make a fine reviewer and you certainly have the background for it. Readers benefit from a diverse array of reviews and reviewers. I personally don't benefit much, if at all, from the overly academic ones (and also like Rattle's poetry -- thanks for the link) and suspect many others don't, either. Keep us posted!

Mari said...

I meant Rattle's policy! : (

Jessica Goodfellow said...

I like Rattle's poems as well as their policy, actually!

Thanks for the quote from Sharon Olds. It's encouraging for people like me. I will do some careful consideration and see if I can gird up my loins and submit a review sometime within, hmmmm, let's say, the next year. Before next Thanksgiving.....

Carol Berg said...

Anti- does reviews as well. I did a review there--I knew Steven Schroeder had a list and I saw an Aasa Berg book that I was very interested in and he sent the book. I wrote the review and he approved it after some edits. He was great to work with.

Jessica Goodfellow said...

Thanks, Carol. These very specific ideas of where to try a review are a great help to people like me just considering getting started. I really appreciate you sharing your good experience.