More thoughts about ranking systems

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
SQ Fence

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.


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7 Responses to More thoughts about ranking systems

  1. John Sakkis says:

    yes, lit magazines. they sort of suck don’t they? even the good ones.

    BOTH BOTH will return with a new ep release sooner than later…


  2. Jessica Smith says:

    I like BOTH BOTH. It “does something.”

  3. François says:

    I’d just like to note that John and I haven’t talked about BOTH BOTH in at least two weeks.

  4. François says:

    And I am a bit surprised you only gave a 4 to angela’s book.

  5. Jessica Smith says:

    For the sake of comparison, I would only give OFC a 4 on a good day, possibly even a 3. I love a.raw’s book. I have recommended it to everyone I know, and have recommended it on the blog multiple times. I think everyone should buy it (new) and read it. It’s a great book. (I think people should also read case sensitive and OFC. These are the best of what the small world of truly experimental poetry has to offer.)

    5 is for a book like Ulysses. 5 is for a book that does something you’ve never seen done as well before, something you couldn’t have done yourself, something that really blows you away, something that makes itself impossible for future writers. (Maybe Ulysses is only like a 4 1/2; I consider at least 2 of Woolf’s books to be just as remarkable, but tighter.)

    You also asked me, privately, what i meant by “experimental.” and i said, i want to see something i’ve never seen before and didn’t see coming.

  6. Jessica Smith says:

    Also, f, regarding NEG, as I said it’s a perfectly fine book. There are… at least half a dozen people to whom I’d stridently recommend it.

    SQ doesn’t actually correspond to School of Quietude, and certainly not by Ron’s standards. Ron’s standards are great for a blog that gets hundreds of thousands of hits and acts as a sort of gateway to experimental poetry for the uninitiated. The number of people who can read looktouchblog currently numbers 139. We are already initiated. We have no reason to fight against people like Jorie Graham here. We can push ourselves to do more in our own field.

  7. kevin.thurston says:

    SQ doesn’t actually correspond to School of Quietude

    and thank gawd for that

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