I presume in conjunction with National Poetry Month, PW has an article this week entitled "What Poetry Reviews Are For (And Up Against)."
As I read this article, I had some thoughts. First, I'm REALLY glad PW still reviews poetry books. It's one of the only print review magazines that regularly does so. I know that some sources like VOYA or SLJ will include some YA poetry books, but there aren't a lot of these, and I really like to buy adult collections. I realize that I probably buy more poetry than most school or YA librarians, but surely I'm not the only one.
Second, after discussing how poetry reviews in publications like PW aren't necessarily for the (sole) purpose of selling the books, it says:
“The importance of reviews for book sales is overrated,” [Matthew Zapruder] says. “I don’t think reviews are particularly necessary to help people decide if they want to buy the book or not, since anyone who has access to the Web can Google an author and find a pretty good sampling of someone’s poems on on-line literary magazines, especially from recently published books.”
I'd like to disagree. I'm not necessarily disagreeing with the importance of reviews for the overall sales of poetry books, but I do disagree that they aren't important (and I mean particularly in major print publications like PW). In the first place, although I really like to buy poetry books, I don't have the savvy or the time to peruse specialty poetry sites. Secondly, this is an example where Zapruder is thinking people should/would go out and search for the information rather than having it come to them. This would be like the difference between going out to a database to find an article rather than having the hard copy of the magazine or journal delivered to you every month, or going out to read/search a blog rather than getting RSS feeds. It's assuming a lot more interest, initiative, and knowledge on the part of the potentially interested buyer. And it also assumes you've heard of a poet or their work. I do a lot with poetry at work, but in 99% of the cases where I'm reading a poetry book review in PW, I've never heard of the poet. I can't search for information about poets if I don't know who to search.
I hope PW continues its poetry reviews. It's my primary source for buying new poetry, and the length and type of information provided in the reviews is exactly what I need. I don't need a lengthy in-depth analysis of the poetry. I know what types of poetry I'm looking for for my curriculum, so I just need a description of the style and themes. Whether it's a good review or not isn't even so much important.