If you live in the Washington, DC, area or read The Washington Post, please write a letter to the editor urging more reviews of poetry. We hope to swamp the Post with scores of letters demonstrating the wide audience for poetry among its readership. Use our Sample Letter to the Post, or write your own.
If you live outside the area, write a similar letter to the book review section of your local newspaper (even better, launch a local campaign!). Together, we can make this a national campaign to increase coverage of poetry books in book reviews of major newspapers and begin to restore poetry’s place as a major genre of literature in this country.
Please let us know what response you receive. We'll post more links and updates on the campaign soon. Read on for more details and Contact Yvette Neisser-Moreno for more information.
In January 2011-in response to a special year-end "Best Books of 2010" issue that included an appallingly small number of poetry books-Split This Rock decided it was time to let the editors of The Washington Post's Book World know that we expect them to publish more reviews of poetry books. Following is an excerpt from the letter we sent on January 14th:
To the Editors: We take issue with the gross lack of poetry books included in the Book World's "Best Books of 2010" list (Dec. 12, 2010). The section (misleadingly) titled "Fiction & Poetry" included 46 fiction titles and only 2 poetry titles. The insinuation that only 2 poetry books in 2010 were worth recommending-and that poetry is some kind of inferior sub-genre of fiction-is appalling, inaccurate, and completely inappropriate for a major literary publication like the Book World. . . . These statistics reflect the dearth of poetry book reviews in the Book World throughout the year, in striking contrast to the vibrancy and diversity of contemporary poetry. . . .We believe that the Book World should be publishing at least one poetry book review each week.
This letter was co-signed by several well-known local poets, university professors, leaders of literary organizations, and editors of local presses and literary magazines, including Grace Cavalieri, Kyle Dargan, Carolyn Forché, and E. Ethelbert Miller.
We received the following encouraging reply from Book World Editor Rachel Shea:
Thank you for your letter. We did have a debate about whether to call the section "Fiction" or "Fiction & Poetry." We decided on the latter to signal that poetry books were included. In an ideal world, there would have been more, but our coverage of poetry has been limited since Book World stopped being published as a separate section in 2009. We will continue to do as much as we can, with occasional reviews (for instance, Michael Dirda will be reviewing a biography of Andrew Marvell this Thursday) and roundups of collections. In the meantime, may I forward your letter to the letters page? I think it is fodder for discussion among our readership.
We have followed up to urge the Book World to commit to publishing at least one full-length poetry review per week, and to devote its limited poetry space to contemporary poets. Please add your voice to the campaign by writing a letter today!