Review by: g emil reutter
I have been reading a lot over the holidays including poetry collections from local and national poet types in addition to literary criticism by Ralph Waldo Emerson. I mentioned this to Poet Rodger Lowenthal who requested I meet him for lunch that he had something for me. A few days later we met at The Fox Chase Deli and had a great discussion about poetry, Rodger also shared some of his new work that I greatly enjoyed. In addition to Rodger’s poems he presented me with an autographed copy of What Poetry Is All About by Greg Kuzma. Did I mention I just read some criticism by Ralph Waldo Emerson?
Kuzma is a noted poet, critic and essayist. I was not prepared for this collection of essays on the modern poetry world even though the inscription should have been a hint : “Everything you wanted to know about the sex of poetry but were afraid to ask” Best wishes, Greg Kuzma. Published in 1998 these essays are just as relevant or irrelevant as they were when they appeared 12 years ago.
This collection of essays is blunt and filled with satire. No one is exempt from the wit of Greg Kuzma. He takes on small press poets, small press editors, the ivory tower stranglers of poetry, the magazines 99.99% of poets will never be published in and even himself. The blurb section is quite interesting in that Kuzma wrote all the blurbs! Kuzma has put together a collection of raw and honest essays that is a must read for those who can get their hands on it.
If you are a sensitive sort you may not want to read this collection of essays as you may see yourself in many of the subjects Kuzma covers in this 243 page book. If you are a poet seeking the truth, Kuzma will confirm most of which you know and lead you to the truth concerning the poetry world.
Kuzma states, “I wanted to write a book in praise of what I knew, what I had learned from those who had been willing to expose themselves to ridicule, who had been kind yet cruel, whose loyalties were first to words, and some truth higher than the expedient which sells shoes.”
What Poetry Is All About stays true to his mission and is a collection of essays that is a must read for all poets and lovers of poetry. And what about Ralph Waldo Emerson? If he were able to read this collection of essays he would have loosened his starched collar, leaned back in his chair and smiled… or not.
Poet, editor, and essayist Greg Kuzma earned a BA and an MA at Syracuse University. His long free-verse poems often investigate the frame of personal memory. His numerous poetry collections include Song for Someone Going Away and Other Poems (1971), Good News(1994), and Selected Early Poems 1958–1983 (2010). His poetry has been featured on Garrison Keillor’s syndicated National Public Radio program, The Writer’s Almanac. Kuzma is also the author of the essay collectionsWhat Poetry Is All About (1998) and A Book of Rereadings: Two (2008). An editor of Best Cellar Press, Kuzma has spoken about reading in the context of his experience as editor of a small press: “I am not even sure I believe in such a thing as good poetry.… There has not been a single poet, no matter how various my initial impressions, that has not brought something in me alive, to life, or sustained life.”
Kuzma is professor emeritus at the University of Nebraska–Lincoln. In addition to serving as the editor of Best Cellar Press, he has edited the literary magazine Pebble. He lives in Crete, Nebraska.
g emil reutter