I had a succession of very engaging English teachers. For ‘A’ level, our texts included Robert Lowell and Donne, both of whom I really enjoyed. At the same time, one of my brothers was studying American Studies at university and had a module on American poetry, which encompassed William Carlos Williams and the Beats, and he went on to do an MA in American Poetry, with a then-unheard-of specialism in Gary Snyder. His enthusiasm, and books, were gateway drugs – I read all sorts. When I then went off to university, the poetry section in the library was like Aladdin’s cave and I filled my boots, much to the detriment of my actual studies.
I like poetry which entertains me as much as that which moves me – those aren’t mutually exclusive, of course. A favourite sentence is from Robert Lowell’s ‘For the Union Dead’: “Everywhere, / giant finned cars nose forward like fish; / a savage servility / slides by on grease.” Or pretty much anything by Geoff Hattersley, for example, “Talking to him was like selling snails from door to door”, from ‘Ride’.
Reviewing has multiple benefits. It gives potential readers a good idea of what the publication contains. It gives the author of the publication some recognition and feedback. It’s a necessary part of the wider poetry community. It helps me to improve as reader and writer by considering someone else’s poetry with an intensity which I might otherwise not bring to bear in my day-to-day reading. And it keeps my (metaphorical) pen flowing.