on writing reviews (& round-up)

Hi, friends.

Here’s what I have for you today:

  • Housekeeping

  • On writing reviews

  • What I read last week

  • Quotations

  • Tweets


The newest issue of The West Review comes out on December 1st. It will be beautiful. Please read it.

Amid applying to a bunch of things, I’ve been trying to stay creative when I can.

Here’s my poem “Prairie Psalm” in comic form:

I can’t draw for the life of me but it’s still pretty cute, in my opinion.

What else?

As always, I’m selling 5 books for $30 to raise funds for The West Review’s contributors. Free shipping. You can tell me what you’re looking for or let me surprise you.

And it is ~the holiday season~ and I do, in fact, accept gifts. You can buy them for me here. Just click add-to-cart and you can mail them straight to me. (I’m only half-kidding.)


On writing reviews:

Okay, first off, a few things you should know:

They are hard to write. It’s time-consuming to read the text analytically, searching for patterns, motifs, and reoccuring themes and diction. It’s time-consuming to write the actual review—and to write it well. And, more often than not, literary journals don’t pay nearly as much as they should for them.


I think everyone should try their hand at writing them. I think they make you a better reader, and a better writer, and I think they’re an important aspect of being a good literary citizen and contributing to the broader writing community.

And, anyway, once you publish a book, you’ll want people to review it positively, no? Think of this as a what-goes-around-comes-around kind of thing. You review books now; they’ll review yours later.

If you need examples of what a review might look like—or how it might be structured—here are some I wrote:

Kayleb Rae Candrilli’s All the Gay Saints: An Exploration of Love and Healing

All I Want: On Alex Dimitrov’s Love and Other Poems

So Be It by Ralph Culver

& here are a few reviews I’ve edited for The West Review:

​Kasey Jueds’ The Thicket: A Movement through Pain and Tenderness (by Marissa Ahmadkhani)

​Mark Wunderlich Speaks for the Dead in God of Nothingness (by Julia Medina)

Fady Joudah's Tethered to Stars: A Celestial Search (by Marissa Ahmadkhani)

Wayne Miller’s We the Jury: A Reckoning (by Marissa Ahmadkhani)

Natalie Shapero’s Popular Longing (by Marissa Ahmadkhani)

C.T. Salazar’s American Cavewall Sonnets (by Julia Medina)

Catherine Pierce’s Danger Days: A Questioning of The Self (by Marissa Ahmadkhani)

And—although I’m sure some people would disagree with me—I do think there’s room for critical reviews, too.

Here’s mine: Dora Malech makes her entrance into experimental poetry.

In summary:

Try writing a review! They are difficult but allow you to engage so much more with a text than you would just as a casual reader. They also allow you an opportunity to show your work: to show your own loyal readers whose writing influences & is in conversation with yours. Plus, they offer publicity to the writers you love. It’s a lil gesture to help them (hopefully!) sell more books.

What I read this week:


How to tell without violating?

-Juliana Spahr, Response

As someone committed to teaching such work, and to having a rigorous scholarly treatment of such work, I realized that its availability to students and researchers was imperative. I was alarmed that people were making pronouncements about certain kinds of poetry even though they had never seen most of the primary material (you can see the same thing happening today, by the way, with regard to “Conceptual Writing”), and I worried that canon would remain unchanged if even the mere access to avant-garde texts were relegated to a select few and could be ignored and vilified by conservative critics whose uninformed claims about the work could go unchallenged.


The “Black Radical Tradition” (a phrase I borrow from Fred Moten) is a reminder to those who would imagine “the whiteness of the avant-garde” — a claim that’s been circulated recently by certain poets and scholars who seem to have little knowledge of literary history and an unsophisticated theoretical understanding of the issues involved.

-Craig Dworkin

We are the only hope we have.

-James Baldwin (in conversation with Audre Lorde)

…a feeling that the body’s edge is lit by a past they might not yet have language for.

-Carrie Lorig

Sometimes you meet someone and yr dumb, raw heart glows / shares.

-Carrie Lorig

I think trans and genderqueer identities threaten a monolith of gender essentialism which includes assumptions about safety, capability, intimacy, knowledge, etc. To really engage with trans and genderqueer people—to make space for our (incredibly diverse) experiences, perspectives, expressions, identities, etc.— to welcome trans and genderqueer people as equally valued participants in poetry, in politics, in science, in engineering, in love—is to allow that these gendered foundations we’ve built so many institutions and cultural norms around may not be so solid after all.

-TC Tolbert

who am i / to forget myself // & the selves i have risen from

-Andriniki Mattis, “I want to wear flowers in my hair & keep the boy in me”


That’s all I have for you today. I hope those of you in the US enjoy your four-day weekend, and I hope everyone finds time to rest & recouperate, too.