I feel that when ranking books, I should consider different genres differently. As you know if you’ve been reading the blog for awhile, I consider, for instance, the chapbook to be a different subgenre, or form, than the book. You can argue with me about this all day long, but I’m very set in my ways. The chapbook is like a chamber piece while the book is like an opera. This is not to say that one is better than the other, only that they take different kinds of concentration and allow for different levels of detail and experiment. Then there is the magazine, which is more like a mix tape. Then there are anthologies and video, installation, performance pieces– which I probably won’t be commenting on. All these things have different rules and should be evaluated separately.
For 5 stars, a book should be coherent, daring, virtuoso, enjoyable through multiple readings, aurally and visually stimulating, well-designed, and interesting. Fairly recent books might fall out thusly:
5 Eunoia (Christian Bök)
4 Wide Slumber for Lepidopterists (a. rawlings)
3 case sensitive (Kate Greenstreet)
2-1 still thinking about these
SQ A Fiddle Pulled from the Throat of a Sparrow (Noah Eli Gordon)
Fiddle is perfectly fine lyric nature poetry, but aesthetically it falls outside the perimeters of what I consider experimental poetry to be.
A 5-star chapbook should be similar to a 5-star book, except that I feel chapbooks can get away with more in terms of experiment because they’re not intended for a wide market like books are. A book has to make back its initial investment; a chapbook is generally not expected to do so.
I am not a fan of poetry/poetics magazines, regardless of the fact that I run one. It seems to me that people generally send unedited shit to magazines, and that magazines are full of pasty material that’s been approved by a board of editors with varying aesthetic goals. For a magazine to be really good, daring, beautiful, it must be run by one or two people and be independently funded (i.e. funded by a source that doesn’t want to dumb-down the material to engage a wider commercial audience).
5 Ferrum Wheel
4 ecopoetics, Chicago Review
3 Drill, Foursquare
2 Rain Taxi
1 Pom Pom, the tiny
I subscribe to Rain Taxi. I like it. But I like it for what it is. In the grand scheme of things a magazine has to be Ferrum Wheel to really knock my socks off.