No Bullshit Reviews
The idea of writing book reviews in verse form was something I stole from poet Skip Fox back in the early 90s. It was in one of those old print versions of Andrei Codrescu’s Exquisite Corpse, and it made a lot of sense to me. In poetry, you can leave a lot of fat by the wayside—stuff that’s expected and needed in prose, but ends up fodder in verse. This allows the poet-reviewer to get down to the nitty-gritty and isolate the thoughts that count. So basically, that’s what I started doing when I became the assistant editor of Andrei’s infamous lit journal (which had moved to an online format) a few years later. Andrei, however, wasn’t so keen on having a bunch of work in the Corpse by nepotistic editors, so he encouraged me to whoop up a pseudonym—which had an added benefit: now I could review my own books and no one would be the wiser. Mostly, though, I reviewed books by Bukowski, Hunter S. Thompson and Ed Sanders, since that’s the work I was trying to make sense of. Sanders, of course, was practicing something similar with his theory of “investigative poetics,” in which he chronicled the history of twentieth-century America totally in verse. Anyway, this aesthetic worked for me—or maybe it worked for Christian Prozak, who authored regular columns in the cyber Corpse entitled “No Bullshit Reviews” years after Spitzer flew the coop. Even now, I'm tempted to chop up this chunk of prose and rearrange it into a poem. There’d be a lot less words here, that’s for sure. But I don’t think I’ll name this technique; because at bottom, it’s really a way of thinking that I like to see translated into print. Meaning that this hybrid bastardization is technically in the public domain, so anyone who wants to work with it can go ahead and innovate away. Just don’t forget Fox and Sanders, who influenced a creative approach to using breath and meter and other elements of song (including the realm of feeling, as opposed to that of critical analysis) to reconfigure an old terrain, still dominated by the gnomes of prose.
Mark Spitzer is the author of 11 books (see his website at www.sptzr.net) and the Managing Editor of Exquisite Corpse Annual. He's a professor of creative writing somewhere in Arkansas, where he wrassles 200-pound alligator gar and mucks around in the swamps. His novel CHODE! will be published in 2009 by Six Gallery Press, Pittsburgh.
RECONFIGURATIONS: A Journal for Poetics & Poetry / Literature & Culture, http://reconfigurations.blogspot.com/, ISSN: 1938-3592, Volume Three (2009): Immanence/ Imminence