On writing reviews

So, now is about the time we get to writing reviews in class. It’s pretty cool that we’ll be able to read an entire collection of poetry and give it our harsh opinions. It’s like the workshop event of published works that we’ve always wanted.

I’ve participated in a few literary reviews before but I had a few questions about the literary review scene: namely, how do you get published? We’re always reading reviews in the New York Times and our local papers and I often hold those reviews in high regard; they must have the qualifications to judge something like this, so whatever they say is right.

It’s weird. What gives me the right – an undergraduate student who prefers fiction – to review anyone’s work as an unpublished nobody.

Thoughts?

4 Replies to “On writing reviews”

  1. I think you have a good point! I think that it’s wise to recognize your position in the world, but I also think that that’s a way to add to the conversation. The books given to us were chosen because they were meant to show us something, and it’s up to us to see how each piece is speaking to us in a certain way. I think that by adding our voices to the conversation in critique or praise and explaining why will help us introspectively look at ourselves. Also, I think that you don’t need a certain degree to be able to talk about something, since I’m sure these poems were meant for everyone to read. So give yourself some credit, your status and opinion matters!

  2. I have had similar thoughts– why should I be allowed to critique a published piece of work when I myself am unpublished and still in school.
    When someone publishes a poem they are presenting it to the public. Thus, even undergraduate “nobodies” will have access to their work. By publishing a work, the author is exposing themselves to both critique and love notes, whether the commentary stems from a Best Selling author or an undergraduate student.
    Besides, many published authors were once in our position and should welcome the addition of new voices into the literary community.

  3. I think Francesca makes a really important point: adding our voices to the conversation matters. When a piece of literature speaks to you, can move you enough to feel the need to write about it, then I believe that you should. There is a golden nugget of perspective at the core of those feelings that wants to be shared, and that’s why it is calling out to you. By including a variety of voices and backgrounds into the conversation (maybe it becomes an orchestra, then), both the writer and the readership are gaining a rounder impression of the work. Each voice is necessary, regardless of the stage of the writer’s career. That inclusion of perspective can only serve to build the conversation.

  4. I guess I’m just worried because I feel like I might overlook important parts of the piece and say, damn, I wish I said that! Or I focus on the themes too much and forget about the syntax. We need to analyze both the content of the poem and the literary techniques behind it! I guess I’m just picturing me writing a review and saying, DAMN IT’S GOOD and leaving it at that? Which makes no sense since I obviously do more than that in workshop. Just fears bubbling to the surface I suppose!

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