As I wrote at the end of the first free newsletter I sent a few days ago, I’m thinking of this project as a way of talking to myself about the books I read, especially books that are too old to write about in a traditional review outlet and books in translation, of which there are too few and they’re not talked about nearly enough. American poetry often feels insular, even provincial, and this newsletter is my small way of pushing against that narrowness of thinking, if only as a challenge to myself. I’m interested in creating a poetics that’s larger than what I can learn reading only American poets. And since I am monolingual, this is the best way I can engage in poetry beyond the borders of English.
But why a newsletter? Why not review these books elsewhere (the new ones, anyway)? One reason is energy. It’s a lot of work to keep up with which editors/outlets are accepting pitches and reviews, which outlets cover translated books to begin with, trying to make sure the review comes out around the time the book is released, and so on. Plus, editors sometimes say no, and then you have to start the process over. And that’s all besides actually reading a book and writing about it. I still plan to review elsewhere, when it makes sense, but this newsletter is an opportunity to just… do it, without the exhausting extra steps.
I also believe that creating our own culture and cultural spaces is valuable. We don’t need to constantly be seeking the affirmation or blessing of institutions, whether they’re universities, publishers, arts organizations, and or anything else. I hesitated in creating this newsletter because I wondered who would care before remembering that those who don’t care won’t subscribe and that’s fine. (And also, plenty of people care—you’re here, after all.) But I also hesitated because we’re conditioned to believe that we need to be affiliated with existing institutions in order for our thinking to be valuable, which is false. It’s freeing to remember that we don’t need permission to do something.