Friday, August 19, 2011

Poetry News: Versification

By Alexandra Seidel

This week a new venue, dedicated solely to the review of speculative poetry, opened its gates. Versification, brainchild of Erzebet YellowBoy, publishes reviews of single poems, magazines, and poetry collections. And judging by the amount of review queries received in these first few days, spec poets and publishers of spec poetry are grateful to have a place like Versification to turn to.

The reviewers are: Amal El-Mohtar, Deborah J. Brannon, Erik Amundsen, Franscesca Forrest, JC Runolfson, and myself.

A few words from Versification's creator, Erzebet YellowBoy, may provide some insight in how this idea was born. This is her answer to why she created a site for reviews of spec poetry only: "I had just published a collection of kick-ass poetry (not speculative) and as I sat there with this wonderful book in my hand I was overcome by a sense of dismay - if it had been a collection of speculative poetry, I'd have had very few places to send it for review. That would mean countless people would never know about the book, or have the opportunity to read the poems, because they wouldn't even know it existed. I don't wish that fate on any book, but especially not poetry books which rarely get the amount of attention they deserve. I decided to create a site that would focus on nothing but poetry, that would offer nothing but reviews of poetry, because I wanted to do my part to bring poetry to a wider audience. I couldn't do it alone, so I asked a few people who I know love poetry as much as I do if they'd sign on as dedicated reviewers. The response was phenomenal, and none of this would have happened without them. I want Versification to show that poetry is a valuable part of the speculative genre, every bit as important as fiction, and to help give it as much exposure as I can."

A few of the reviewers also were so kind as to tell FU why they signed up for writing the reviews:

Francesca Forrest: "I'm on board because there aren't many reviews of speculative poetry out there, and stimulating conversation about poetry stimulates interest in it. It also spreads word about interesting venues, gets more readers, inspires people--all in all, it seemed a good way to help the field flourish."

JC Runolfson: "I've witnessed how a lack of critical analysis causes any art form to stagnate, and I love talking about the art I've experienced. I'm participating in Versification because it's the kind of forum that encourages dialogue between people who enjoy discussing art, in this case speculative poetry. I also feel like it can be a useful tool in not only getting the field as a whole accustomed to such analysis, but in teaching critical methodologies by example."

And here is what Amal El-Mohtar shared on her blog, reprinted with her permission: "Anyone who knows me even a little knows I'm prone to grumbling about the lack of poetry reviews out there, and that I'm frequently annoyed by reviewers who consistently devote attention to every single story in a magazine or anthology, but completely ignore the poetry. I get annoyed as poet, editor, and reviewer: as a poet I'd like to know that my work's as worthy of being read as the prose between which it's sandwiched; as an editor I'm baffled by how a reviewer can discuss an issue or anthology as a whole while pretending part of it doesn't exist; and as a reviewer I'm irked by the sheer lazy effrontery of it. So to see a new venue dedicated exclusively to critiquing, commenting on, and discussing poetry is tremendously welcome to me on all fronts."

Hopefully readers will enjoy and profit from the reviews, or perhaps even find their way to spec poetry through them. Please spread the word and support Versification by following them on Twitter (@Versifications)!
Note: Go here or here for the reviews of Stone Telling 1 and 2 from FU #2 (Unless). --AS