PoetryReviews.ca | Reviews of Canadian Poetry

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March 10th, 2006

I’m looking for feedback on the site. What do you like? What can be improved? Please leave a comment about any part of the site (look and feel, editorial direction, reviews, ads, etc.).



Entry Filed under: Poetry

19 Comments. Add your own...

  • 1. fisher | March 10th, 2006 at 10:12 am

    maybe you should do a review of my book, or my blog. really tear me a new
    asshole. all your reviews are so gentle and positive. it may help to give me
    a good shit kicking, God knows i deserve it, all the other poets think so,
    and it can’t hurt the hits or the sales.

    lemme know


  • 2. Eric Barstad | March 11th, 2006 at 1:20 pm


    I think one of the reasons the reviews are generally positive is because of our policy of having reviewers only review the books they like. However, I’m interested in hearing how others feel about this. Obviously, I want honest reviews and opinions, and genuine criticism (and praise) of books is part of that. What I don’t want is the common invective found in a lot of newspaper literary reviews, which to me feel self-aggrandizing and mean-spirited and certainly no more honest than the reviews found here.

  • 3. Zach Wells | March 11th, 2006 at 10:44 pm


    The problem, as I see it, with a policy of having people review only “the books they like” is that I don’t know if I like a book until I read it. And once I’ve gone to the trouble of reading it, I might as well go ahead and review it, since most of the work is in the reading. Granted, it’s best to avoid ad hominem-type critiques, but I think it will make for a more lively forum on the whole if you open it up a bit. Once you have a squad of reviewers you trust to be more or less pro about what they’re doing, let ‘em write what they honestly think about whatever it is they want to write about. Personally, I have a hard time trusting a reviewer who never has a negative thing to say. Similarly, a site that never says “nay” is unlikely to hold my interest.

    These days, my personal policy is only to persist with a book I strongly dislike if I’m being paid well for the review. Otherwise, it’s a waste of my time.


  • 4. Zach Houle | March 12th, 2006 at 8:32 am

    Yeah, one can’t have solely positive reviews on a site and expect to be taken seriously. That said, I’ve seen the Canadian poetry scene descend into personal politics over bitter reviews. In fact, I just got a nastygram from a Canadian author with a small press who didn’t like a review of his work I did for Popmatters.com. (I chose not to respond.) So, there’s a really fine balance to strike. I think you have to be strong and publish the sometimes bad: unless it’s an attack on a personality as opposed to a book. Bad reviews are a useful utility in society. Let it be known, however, that this will bring out the cranks.

    I think you might want to consider a policy of banning both any author and the press they represent for an extended period if they write in to snark/snipe at a bad review. Refuse to comment as well. That might prevent some of the blow-ups that happened out of some of the “discussions” at the Danforth Review a few years back. There’s a certain level of ‘wanna-be-ness’ in the scene, and a certain lack of professionalism. But if there’s someone willing to be strong and not take b.s., I think that’ll do a lot to raise the quality of poetry in Canada. Just my two cents.

  • 5. Eric Barstad | March 12th, 2006 at 9:37 am

    Zach and Zach,

    I agree with you both, and I will have to revise my policy. Obviously, reviewers should be left with the choice of “review or not review” after having read the book. Ultimately, I’m the one who has the most choice now that so many books have come in: I see each book that comes in and get first choice. I know 5-10 poems in whether or not I’m going to like a book or not, and I inevitably move on if the poems don’t appeal to me. The reviewers, on the other hand, only get to choose based on publisher websites and jacket blurbs.

    What has to be made clear (and what is probably already clear) is that, as you both say, the reviews must stay away from the personal and remain critical, providing “evidence” of both the book’s positive and negative elements. This will hopefully prevent some of the blow-ups and nasty “fan mail.”

    Thanks for your comments.

  • 6. Alex | March 12th, 2006 at 3:20 pm

    I think it’s great that you’ve started this forum. It’s very hard to get any small press titles, especially poetry, reviewed these days. I’m always surprised that there aren’t more Canadian book sites.

    Some thoughts: I don’t think you want to always be positive. You’ll get some negative feedback from “going negative”, but this kind of political squabbling comes with the territory. And if you want debate you need to open things up to a difference of opinion.

    I think the header image is a little too “sunshine and lollipops.” And nary a book to be seen!

    Other ideas: have podcasts of poets reading their poetry; have interviews with poets AND publishers, etc., a bulletin board letting people know about events that are happening, readings, etc.

  • 7. Eric Barstad | March 13th, 2006 at 7:38 am


    Thanks for your comments. I really like your suggestions for expansion. I’ll have to think about the podcasts (in terms of implementation and logistics), but a forum/bb would be easy enough to set up so authors could promote their writing and events and discuss writing. I’d like to get into interviews eventually as well…

  • 8. Eric Barstad | March 13th, 2006 at 11:20 am

    Made a slight change to the review guidelines.

  • 9. Laura Edna Lacey | March 13th, 2006 at 2:06 pm

    Hey Eric –congratulations on a great site! I am SO excited about this –i am an aspiring poet myself, based in Saskatchewan, and at a Saskatchewan Writers Guild conference a couple years ago myself and a couple other poets were bemoaning the lack of publicity for poetry books, esp reviews, and came up with the idea of a website to review new Canadian poetry books then! But –none of us got moving on it –i am so glad you did –this site can be a GREAT help for Canadian poets –i’ll be visiting lots!

    Take care and good luck,
    Laura Edna Lacey

  • 10. Eric Barstad | March 13th, 2006 at 7:23 pm


    Thanks for the comments. I was actually surprised there wasn’t another site like this one. As it grows, I hope I’ll be able to offer more reasons for people to keep coming back. Look for a forum (thanks to Alex for the suggestion) possibly later this week.

  • 11. Dr. Y. Trainer | March 15th, 2006 at 4:05 pm


    Dear Eric Barstad:

    I was rather annoyed (okay let me say disgusted) with your subtle put down of performance poetry in your discussion of Goyette’s work. Certainly, there are authentic poets who don’t necessarily perform their work. and Ms. Goyette may be one of them; however, performance is an ancient art and it is an art. When people put performance poetry down, I wonder if it’s merely because they are incapable of performance or can’t be bothered to make the effort to perform. A performance takes a tremendous amount of effort and lifts the poetry above merely reading it on the page. A performance does not have to be a recital, but it must rise above the “sigh, oh i’m so important that you can just sit here and praise me like some god, while I take nervous breaths and murmur my oh so precious poems at you.” I have more to say, but for professional reasons will refrain for now.

    Dr. Y. Trainer

  • 12. Dr. Y. Trainer | March 15th, 2006 at 4:06 pm

    Comment removed at author’s request.

  • 13. Dr. Y. Trainer | March 15th, 2006 at 4:07 pm

    Comment removed at author’s request.

  • 14. Eric Barstad | March 15th, 2006 at 4:08 pm

    Hi Yvonne,

    Thanks for your comments; I appreciate your feedback, and I’d like to address some of your concerns.

    Re: Performance Poetry — I rather enjoy performance poetry and no dig was meant at the genre/style. Rather, I was saying that Goyette was a subtle reader rather than an actor. She simply read her work, didn’t act it out.

    Re: Writing Style — Richard Stevenson’s review certainly is quite excellent and would serve well as a model for other reviewers, especially myself. I hope the quality of the writing continues to improve as the site goes on.

    Re: Email System — the system is built into the site’s software and I never bothered to change the automatic reply. I can’t speak toward the censorship of negative comments, but rest assured I’ll look into it.

    Thanks again.

  • 15. Zach | March 17th, 2006 at 8:38 pm

    Re: Podcasts

    Zeke’s Gallery in Montreal does podcasts of all the readings they host. Zeke would be a good person to talk to about logistics. And of course, you could simply link to all the readings he’s got on the net.

    Here’s a link to a reading I did there last month


    Also reading that night were Stephanie Bolster, Geoff Cook and Robyn Sarah, all available from Zeke’s blog.

  • 16. Amanda | March 27th, 2006 at 5:51 pm

    Contrary to most of those who have commented here, I am against negative reviews. When I read negative reviews like Starnino’s or many of those in the Danforth Review, it doesn’t make me believe in the reviewer’s knowledge or taste, but rather in their own attitudes of superiority and need to insult others to make themselves look good or knowledgeable. Silence is the best negative review.

  • 17. Eric Barstad | March 27th, 2006 at 6:38 pm


    I think you’re right. Ultimately what I’m shooting for with the reviews is balance. I’m not sure there are any books published today that can’t be both praised and critiqued (by which, I don’t mean “slammed”). I would like reviewers to acknowledge this in their reviews. Reviewers here won’t make their names on the back of a stepped on poet, and no poet is going to be given a free ride.

    Thanks for your comment.

  • 18. Zachary Houle | April 22nd, 2006 at 9:01 pm


    Conversely, you could always not read The Danforth Review or support any of these so-called negative writers. You appear to be a pretty keen supporter of a rather boorish Ottawa poet who happens to make a lot of people miserable by going to other people’s readings and cat-calling them for no reason than inflating his rather fragile ego. So your remarks here are a little pot kettle black. You know? Poetry is a scene and it has its people who can’t get along, and have their petty little battles. One is wise to ignore that crap, and I think the majority of people see right through that stuff anyway. It’s probably one of the reasons why Canadian poetry sells so poorly.

    On the other hand, ’silencing’ all negative reviews is akin to fascism. Are our egos *that* egg shell thick that we’re expected to sit around and slap each other on the back and tell everyone how great everyone is? Please.

    Eric’s right. It’s all about balance. And if one can’t stand some well-placed heat on them, don’t publish your poetry. Pretty simple.

  • 19. Dani | June 28th, 2006 at 3:12 pm

    Zach H., I’m with you. If you don’t like it, don’t read it, though I have no tolerance for public assassinations.

    I just think a good review educates both reader and writer.

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