brief notes on reviews + the other room

I don't want to give the impression it's something that happens a lot or that my opinions are particularly significant but I do sometimes come in for criticism of the reviews I write.

At least once that was because I was rude about the appearance of a band I didn't like. More usually it's because a criticism I've made has seemed unfair. Often because I've criticised someone on grounds that another person thinks are irrelevant.

I'm aware that whenever I review something especially where I identify something I don't like some people will not be happy. I'm especially aware this is the case when I've reviewed a number of events in a series.

Which brings me to The Other Room. I'm well aware that as the series has progressed my reviews have become more openly critical of certain writers. I'm not especially happy about this as I think The Other Room is a really valuable event not just locally but nationally and beyond.

Personally I know that without The Other Room most of my current and planned activities probably wouldn't have happened. When I was discovering alternative poetries to the mainstream it was a crucial point of contact without which it would have been a much more difficult and prolonged process discovering what was currently happening.

That support and confidence helped me to build on my interest in sound and visual poetry and spend time developing my skills in these areas. It's arguable that this was a major contributory factor to my first opportunities to exhibit work in group shows, with all that's followed from that.

It wasn't quite the only thing. Through 2009 both the Text Festival and the currently defunct Salford Concerts Series were massively important in motivating and inspiring me. Both also afforded opportunities to practice my criticism.

I still think The Other Room has a vital function. Linguistically innovative poetry doesn't get much media time, and like a lot of minority scenes there's a tendency for it to retreat to online ghettos. Apart from the chance to hear this work there is the opportunity to meet with other poets, and to buy their work from the increasingly impressive bookstall.

It's arguable that many endeavours including Department, Writers Forum North (the first meeting of which I wasn't able to attend), Knives, Forks and Spoons Press, and certainly Counting Backwards owe at least part of their existence and success to The Other Room.

I feel that when I review The Other Room now while I might not be as positive as I was in the early days there are good reasons for this. The reasons for The Other Room to exist have not gone away, but I hope that my reviews are generally more mature and less vague than they used to be. I engage more with the poetry where I can.

I hope I show more respect to the work by taking it seriously and not assuming that poems and poets are fragile creatures that will smash with the slightest pressure.

Comments

Anonymous said…
Just a quick note to say that all your reviewing has also proved highly beneficial in keeping the Other Room visible. Good or bad a review for any given poet is obviously as you believe it and at the particular time of writing. Truth is certainly of prime importance even if it upsets people – else it’s all patting on the back.

James

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