As any reasonably attentive reader of this site knows, Dispatches is all about confronting the deepening climate of cautious politeness, careerist maneuvering, and opportunist docility that has pervaded the poetry sphere in a near forty-year period of institutionalized capture. (As any reasonably attentive reader of this site also knows, we love us some adjectives here at Dispatches, especially when talking about how rotten things in the Field have become…)
One way of doing the confrontation thing, obviously, is by calling out bullshit (textual or not), whether such BS comes from the long-institutionalized “Mainstream” side of things, or from the more recently recuperated “Avant” one.
The following article, by Rafia Zakaria, on the regrettable scarcity of “negative” book reviewing, appears in the new issue of The Baffler. The essay has been getting considerable coverage, and we are glad to see it:
Not mentioned in the coverage, but in immediate relation to the topic of the “negative review,” is the following roundtable of responses to a similar call, by Kent Johnson, in 2010. The forum of 32 respondents at Mayday stands, to date, as the largest gathering of critics around the issue. Their replies are available at the link beneath Johnson’s opening provocation.
Let’s have more negative, cheeky reviews, please. Let’s have more unsettling of the subculture’s institutionalized power structures. Rattle things up in serious and humorous measures and poetry can only be refreshed.