Thursday 25 September 2008

A re-review

I'm surprised and delighted to see that Nathan Thompson, who gave Claire Crowther's Stretch of Closures a vaguely negative review in Stride, has now admitted he did not read the book closely enough and has posted a re-review here at Gists and Piths. Was his conscience nagging, or the fact of his forthcoming book with the same publisher? Regardless, it took courage, and I admire that.


  1. Hi Carrie

    Thanks for most of that. It's a great book and I'm glad that the re-review accords more closely with your own views.

    I feel I should clarify that the fact that Shearsman has published my book was not in any way a trigger for the re-review on Gists and Piths. Indeed, had toadying been my intention, it would have been more sensible for me to have written a more positive review the first time round, at the time I was preparing the first draft of my own Shearsman manuscript (which thankfully turned into a very different beast from that draft).

    I do, however, admit that my motives were mixed. Not only have I been genuinely troubled that I had ill-served a good book with a vaguely dismissive, and certainly under-prepared, review but also I did not like looking like a fool in print.

    I'm slightly stung that you appear to think that my motives for revisiting Stretch of Closures may have been devious - as an aside if I didn't admire the books published by Shearsman it would have been nonsense for me to have submitted a manuscript to Tony Frazer - but am pleased that you found more to enjoy in the new review, and that it seems to have stimulated fresh interest in Claire Crowther's work in some quarters.

    Out of interest, what are your views on poets reviewing other titles from their publisher's list? I was unsure whether I should submit this re-review on the basis that there was scope for misinterpretation.

    With all good wishes,


  2. Thanks for your message, Nathan. First, I'm sorry that my remark about your motives was taken this seriously; it was intended as tongue-in-cheek, but that's one of the problems with electronic communication--you couldn't see the roguish smile on my face as I wrote it.

    I myself don't review poets with whom I'm friends or poets from my own presses. For example, I recently turned down a chance to review Jennifer Clement's new Shearsman book, given my own book forthcoming there, and I will never publish a review of Claire's work given she's one of my closest friends.

    Several poets have said I won't have anyone to review if I exclude poets I'm friends with, but there's a real difference between acquaintances and friends. If I feel my familiarity with someone would make me reluctant to make a criticism, I don't review that person's work; that's where I draw the line. At the same time, there are many poets I've met whom I'd feel comfortable reviewing, because I haven't developed a relationship with them.

    In your own case reviewing Claire's book now that you are with Shearsman, I don't see a conflict because the Gists and Piths review was an extension of your Stride review, before you were with Shearsman. I commend you again on your bravery in publicly admitting fault and trying to rectify the situation. I'm impressed.

    I look forward to meeting you at your reading with Linda Black at Swedenborg Hall in November.

    All best,

  3. Hi Carrie

    Sorry to be over-sensitive. I was a little paranoid about readers thinking there was an element of cronyism involved but you'd have thought I'd have learnt my lesson regarding mis-reading and judging tone by now!

    Thanks for your comments regarding reviewing - it's helpful to know what more experienced people think and I will use that as a guide.

    I look forward to seeing you in London too, and am very glad that you're coming to the reading. We met very briefly at an excellent reading you gave in Exeter a while back, but I was too shy to say hello properly and to get my copy of your first pamphlet signed - I'll bring it along in November. I've been enjoying Linda Black's book too - exciting to see a whole collection of prose poems.

    Apologies again for over-sensitivity.

    All best,


  4. Hi, Nathan. I'd like to see more discussion on the ethics of reviewing, especially poetry. Let me know if other issues crop up.

    There's no need to apologise for oversensitivity--can you imagine what it'd be like if poets apologised every time they realised they were being oversensitive? I think I'd be like Demosthenes, the sorries like rocks in my mouth as I tried to speak around them.