Wednesday, May 17, 2006



I've been/am active as an editor, but Galatea Resurrects (GR) offers the first time that I'm editing a publication which includes -- let alone, focuses on -- poetry reviews. It's an interesting position, for me, because I’ve not had that much interest in reviews (despite occasionally writing some), relative to other poetry matters. I am, however, interested in seeing how others engage with poems and/or poetry -- what moves them. And then sharing such with others in order to draw more attention to poetry's varied wonders.

I prefer that engagement to the notion of review (though I use the word), in part because "review" in some quarters comes with how-to-review paradigms which generally don't interest me. Some of the most effective reviews for me have been those which disrupt conventional review practices (for instance, Bill Marsh's review of Heriberto Yepez's BABBELLEBAB in GR's Inaugural Issue).

Also, I’ve noticed that a poem’s reader often responds (or responds mostly) to aspects of but not necessarily the entirety of the work. The fragment, however, may suffice for generating a meaningful engagement. And why not? In my first book BLACK LIGHTNING, Meena Alexander discusses in part the myth of how one needs to engage with the *totality* of a poem in order to respond significantly; on the contrary, there are many doors into a poem and not all need be opened by the same reader. This POV goes against some "how to review" rules, but it doesn't prevent a legitimate review or engagement, even as it may -- may -- emphasize one's appreciation for that review that attempts to address every single facet of a poem/poetry book.

With GR, I mostly want to facilitate poetry discourse, for which I honor the most incremental addition to such. For more background about how I came to deploy GR, you also can read my Introduction to GR's inaugural issue here. There, you'll see my primary intent as facilitating discourse on poetry, regardless, by the way, of whether it's negative or positive -- given subjectivity, I don't think being disliked is an insult to a poem; the real insult to a poem is indifference. In fact, since GR is open to seeing more than one review of the same publication, over time GR can start to show different engagements with the same work -- as already begins with this issue as some of the books reviewed were also addressed by GR's first issue.

This all is also to say, as of this second issue, I am renaming the subtitle of this journal from “(A Poetry Review)” to “(A Poetry Engagement)”. Though the interactions occur through “reviews,’ my intent for GR is really to engage. And I don’t -- as I said in my Introduction to the inaugural issue -- want to preordain (by evoking how-to-review rules) how others, including critics, should read poems. I also like the wordplay as regards “engagement”: some engagements are negative, positive or a mixture -- and not all lead to marriage. Of course, as someone who married Mr/s Poetry, I hope that engagements lead to a fulsome love of a poet(s)’s work, though GR doesn’t discriminate from preventing evidence of others’ aborted love affairs.

Relatedly, while recently cleaning out my files, I stumbled across what I think is the first poetry review I've written: a 1997 review of John Yau's 1996 collection, FORBIDDEN ENTRIES (Black Sparrow). I've reprinted it as the last review presented in this issue -- unchanged from its first (so please hold the tomatoes!) attempt at a critical POV as regards poetry. And I present it today despite the outdatedness of some of its concerns because its existence still relates to the timeless joy of falling in love with poems. I'd never heard of John Yau when I stumbled across his "Conversation at Midnight" in the American Poetry Review; I love(d) that poem so much it made me check out John's other books, which then came to inform much of my education as a newbie poet exploring the foreign language of poetry. I love(d) FORBIDDEN ENTRIES so much that it even made me attempt something new: write a poetry review...! All this, of course, understates the pleasures of having engaged with John Yau's poems -- a joy that I wish for all who read poetry.

Ultimately, when it comes to engaging with a poem, I find the notion of “review” as one that can be too limiting. As Charles Bernstein once wrote (in one of my favorite lines by him such that I once quoted it while writing a review of an art exhibit):

"you can't leave the theater humming the critique".

The deadline for submitting reviews for the next issue is Aug. 5, 2006. You can review books you own or ask for review copies sent to us. GR also is open to all styles of reviewing. I accept all forms, though would suggest generally that it's a good idea to provide excerpts of poems to exemplify reviewers' assessments. For more information, go to Galatea's Purse here.

You can ask me for suggestions, of course, but as it turns out, I rarely assign reviews; 99% of the reviewed titles are chosen by the reviewers themselves. That's all fine as I don't wish to limit reviewed titles to only those which I like. I am here (I first typed "hear") to listen -- and learn about poetry projects new to me -- as much as to "edit." For this issue, I'm particularly grateful to Mrs. McIntosh for rising from the dead so as to grace us with a review of her ungrateful son's poetry book. Without all you reviewers coming to the mountain where I perch, brewing up ideas to cure insomnia, GR would not exist.

Eileen Tabios
St. Helena, CA
May 17, 2006


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