Evening Will Come: A Monthly Journal of Poetics (Issue 35, November 2013—Reviews Issue)

Kathleen Rooney

1.What are the goals of the critic of poetry?

I don’t know about all critics, but my goals are usually to increase attention for things that should be read more or read more carefully, and to try to affect the public conversation about a given work or set of works when the public conversation seems in need of adjustment.

2.What’s your take on all the positive reviewing that happens of new poetry books? Is that a misnomer? Should there be more negative reviews?

Reviews should be insightful, and writing an insightful positive review is actually harder than writing an insightful negative one.

3.Who are the critics that you return to? Who do you wish to emulate?

Dave Hickey is my critical hero because of his personable and conversational approach to criticism which seems rooted in his lived experience, and therefore can make challenging theoretical detours without losing or alienating the reader.

4.How do you handle what many have deemed a glut in contemporary poetry and how do you keep up with what comes out?

The critic is under no obligation to keep up with everything that comes out. The critic is under an obligation not to act like s/he keeps up with everything that comes out, when clearly such a thing is impossible. When a critic pretends to speak from a position of such impossible omniscience, you get wince-inducing phony polemics like Mark Edmunson’s piece about the so-called “decline of American verse” in Harper’s.