The Constant Critic
PostedNovember 17, 2004
Pulitzer-prize winning poet Franz Wright has posted comments to the site. So has Fanny Howe. They were each responding to the lengthy, intelligent reviews of their latest books posted on the Constant Critic, an online-only poetry review created by Fence magazine.
In 2002, Constant Critic invited three young, published poets to write regular review of recently published poetry books. The three critics--Jordan Davis, Ray McDaniel, and Joyelle McSweeney--offer three differing aesthetic approaches to their selections and reviews. For example, a recent edition featured McSweeney’s review of contemporary French translations by Cole Swensen, McDaniel’s take on British poet Tom Pickard’s latest collection, and Davis’s look at rocker-poet Todd Colby’s Tremble and Shine.
In an interview with Poets.org, Fence publisher Rebecca Wolff explained why the site was created: "The Constant Critic was founded as a response to the dearth of timely, lively reviews of new books of poetry. Its constancy is part of its mission; we hope our readers will come to trust and rely on our three critics, different as they each are from one another."
Designed with a general poetry audience in mind, Constant Critic allows readers to send a virtual "Letter to the Editor," which is posted to the site. "It was originally intended to spark debate, or at least response to the opinions stated," said Wolff, who added that she we disappointed that so few readers have taken advantage of the function. Nevertheless, there have been a few interesting aesthetic arguments played out through lengthy reader letters. Take a look, for example, at the chain of replies to Ray McDaniel’s review of Lucie Brock-Broido’s third book, Trouble in Mind.
Wolff says to expect more of the same from the site in the future, meaning that readers can continue to expect sharp, incisive reviews of familiar and unfamiliar poetry. And to keep up with the latest reviews, interested readers can sign up for an email newsletter (there are currently 9,000 subscribers) that sends a notice when a new set of reviews is posted.