Thursday, 4 March 2010

Selected Poems 1967- 2007: Hudson Owen

The 63 poems in this volume represent four decades of the author's writing life. The reader will find poems of work, love, loss, sports, art, the natural world, in a variety of verse forms. There are tears, laughter, reflections, dreams in these pages. The author believes that the verities of Truth and Beauty are as relevant for poets today as they were when John Keats announced them in his day.

Comments from readers on poems included in this book:

"I like ‘Evening Near The Park’ and the Samuel Morse poem very much."
Richard Wilbur, Pulitzer Prize winner

In response to a poem written about a painting by the artist:
"You have done in words what I attempted in paint. Thank you for it."
James Wyeth

"Your ‘Mona Lisa’ was excellent!"
T.E. Breitenbach, Painter and Author of

Front cover by the author.

Hudson Owen was born in Buffalo, New York, in 1946 and grew up in Wilmington, Delaware. He is a published poet, essayist and produced playwright in New York City, where he has acted. He is also a photographer and digital artist.

Dear Hudson

I promised to review your book:
you sent it in the post.
It did not come for weeks and weeks
and we thought it had got lost.

So when at last it landed here
there was some celebration
because I was, I will admit
pleased to have your publication.

I read your intro with delight:
you're articulate and funny
(I especially enjoyed the parts
where you talked about the money).

But when I came to read your verse
I got a little worried:
your rhyming schemes are fine but
your meter's rather hurried.

Your early poems are sweet and warm
but not sophisticated;
the one you call The Kissing Song
I very nearly hated.

Despite my reservations, though,
I vowed I would read on
but when I was less than half-way through
my interest had gone.

I prefer my poetry
To have a deeper meaning:
I like it strong and brave and bold
With a literary leaning.

I really like the Thomas boys,
Ted Hughes and Daniel Abse:
I consider the work of Ezra P
to be absolutely fabsy.

You are so close to rather good
I find it tantalising:
your poems could be so improved
with just a little more revising.

If you could try to up your game
and sharpen every line,
and layer images with meaning
then I think you'll do just fine.

So please, dear Hudson: do not weep.
Do not be cross with me.
I think you have a talent
and I reached page forty-three.


Jane Travers said...

Only a poetic genius could think
of rhyming Daniel Abse with fabsy.
Before your rhyming prowess I sink
Into a deep, respectful curtsey!

Marisa Birns said...

I think your verse does kindly say
this book will need more depth.
You say you've read to forty-three
Just twenty more were left.

Well. That's why I don't write poetry.

Enjoyed your review!

Marshall Buckley said...

I'm not going to even try to reply in verse - though I'm delighted you wrote the review in this way.

I do have to take issue with rhyming "post" with "lost" though. Unless you were being ironic...

Leslie said...

Near rhymes are fine. Good for you, Jane!

Anonymous said...

I for one find a poetry review written as poetry tiringly annoying.

I'd also take the blog itself more seriously if "3 pages read" (3) was much less common than "I read it all." (4) It's a free book, and when I see "5 pages read" and "this is a super book" I don't believe it. And if you're going to flag typos, you've got "The copy on the back cover needs attention to" which I expect should be "The copy on the back cover needs attention, too." (Neutrality) Not being vindictive, but if I were paying for a review I would expect it to be "typographically clean." Particularly when you call such attention to others' errors you'll be taken more seriously when you're above the fray. Cliche (8).

It would also appeal to me more if it were less copy-editor carping and more about the structure or format of the writing. I don't care that much about poor punctuation (16), because if the story is a waste of time, the typographical errors and quote marks won't matter and won't redeem it. With all this grouching about graphical elements and formatting elements, the reviews come off almost canned. Every one says the same things about different books. I don't get a feel that you're putting much effort into it. But then again, you don't read the whole book, so why would I expect much effort put into the review when so little effort is invested into the reading?

Since this is a paid review (a free copy of the book), the writer merits a full read. If you want to say where you hit the typo limit that's fine, but the writer deserves a full review with more on-the-content discussion than wailing about weak back cover copy (12), font changes (1), and unattractive cover design (2) and all the other formatting issues I see under "labels". These folks aren't copy-editors so yes, you should expects these problems and they're not exactly flaws--more known issues. I'm glad you're upfront about quitting after a certain number of typos, but when the issue is the writing or the plot, reading one or three pages doesn't constitute a review. That's browsing.

As a last comment: I'm not sure what you're trying to do here, what is the goal of this blog? Is it to review books and offer help for future publishing efforts (i.e. critiques) or is to dissect people for being unskilled at something they're not expected to be skilled at (the copy-editing and front cover design and ad copy functions a publishing house would provide)? Because without understanding the goal here, I can't really address how well you achieve it.

Yes, I'm posting anonymously. I am not one of the writers you have reviewed. I just don't need another account with a password I won't remember. I am not a published writer and don't work anywhere near the publishing field.

- Brian

Jane Smith said...

"Brian", I'm sorry you don't like my blog, but thank you for pointing out my typo: I hate it when they slip in, and I'm always grateful to be alerted to them. It just shows how hard it can be to work without an editor's assistance.

First, you have to forget the notion that the reviews I give here are paid for. They aren't, not at all: sure, the writers give me their books for free: but if I were being paid for reviewing them I'd earn an hourly rate which is far in excess of the cost of the book; and if the books aren't ones I'd choose to read outside of this blog, the free copy isn't worth anything to me.

As for the errors that I find: if I spot just one or two errors of a particular kind then I don't mention them. I usually only discuss problems in my review if they are repeated and substantial, and therefore have a direct impact on the reader's experience of the book.

Finally, I wrote the review in verse. I'm sorry you found that irritating: I'll admit it's a little twee. But I shared more than a couple of jokes with Mr Owen when he sent me his book and I thought he might enjoy this joke, too. It was meant kindly, and I wouldn't have risked it with someone I felt wasn't robust enough to appreciate it.

Anonymous said...

"Jane" (?) - I don't exactly dislike the blog, but I can't really judge how successful (and thus useful to me) your blog is when I can't divine your objective. And since I can't judge how successful it is, I can't judge it's value to me.

Is your objective to copy-edit and whine about typos, weak back cover copy, and poor covers, or is it to offer comments on the content, structure, and execution--which is of most benefit to the writers. True or false -- the covers are done "by other" as well as the final typeset and the final proofread?

I've seen stuff with excessive typos in the past and yes, I can't read well, but is that the point? Because then this should be called the copy-editor's blog. And you could tear apart published "mainstream" fiction as well. If the typos are that bad, you could simply decline to review it, inform the author, and destroy the book.

What I'm saying is if I were looking for book reviews, this isn't the place, and if I were an author looking for some inexpensive feedback (or to lurk and learn), this also isn't the place. (I like to think I don't have a problem with typos, and since almost all these reviews are "unfinished book", ...) When I read these reviews without excerpts, all I have is your say-so on the quality. Perhaps those submitting works could give you permission for extensive excerpts or the like? Otherwise I don't see what the blog achieves besides giving those submitting a link to promote (sort of). Without excerpts it becomes a private critique written on a postcard. I can read it but it doesn't mean much to me as a lesson. I feel shut-out, uninvolved.

But of course this presumes the purpose of your blog.

And it's a paid review in the lightest sense. Per the court, if you get the book for free, it's a paid review. If you get a free copy of software, it's a paid review. I meant in the legal sense, not in the "I was paid by the hour."

I tire of people vainly quoting their "high" hourly rate. It's posturing, posing, and it's not relevant. I don't care. Everyone on the internet has a high hourly rate. We're all lawyers and doctors and we're all 22, 6' tall, 160 pounds and bench 350.

I retract my comments about the poetry review, if you had disclosed it as something the author appreciated or invited, I would have kept quiet.

If I were a fiction writer casting about for feedback, I'd also think it would help if there were a few benchmark reviews. Reviews of published books you did or didn't like. I'm curious what you made of The Shipping News?

--Brian (without the quotes)

Jane Smith said...

Brian (without any quotes at all), if you want to know why I set up this blog, and what my objectives are, you only have to read the posts I've made here in which I answer those points.

If you're really interested in my motivation then it's probably best if we continue this discussion on the appropriate post, as it has nothing at all to do with Hudson Owen's poetry.

And while I'm happy to continue a reasoned debate with you, the comment that you left on my other blog earlier today implies to me that you're not here to discuss my methods at all: you're really only interested in criticising me. In which case, it's pretty shabby of you to make your comments anonymously. At least have the gumption to own your words.

I'm going to delete any further comments you make here which are not related to the topic under discussion. So if you want to discuss Hudson's poetry here, by all means go ahead; if you want to discuss my methods and motivation, that's fine on the relevant posts; but if you just want take a pop at me, expect to be deleted.

I hope that's clear.

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Richard said...


I have to say that I found some of your comments rather baffling. The notion that a review is paid-for should the reviewer receive a free copy is, at best, reductionist, and at worst mendacious: by this standard, every review published in every major newspaper or trade journal is paid-for. In contrast, there are some fairly disreputable review services out there that really do charge for their time: I’ve just seen one, targeting vanity-published authors, that asks for $75 upfront. What objectivity could such a service offer? And what credentials does that reviewer have to justify such a fee? (I suspect none, apart from being a vanity-published author herself.)

As a commercially-published novelist, I find this site fascinating, and my view of it is as a commentary on the vanity-publishing process more than anything else. (Despite the blog name, most of the books here appear to be from traditional vanity presses, rather than truly self-published — and the latter tend to be among the better submissions, which is no coincidence.)

Jane is doing prospective writers a favour, to my mind, by pointing out that vanity presses are only too happy to issue books with typographical and punctuation errors, severe plot holes, passages of clumsy exposition, bad cover designs and blurbs that would never make anyone want to open and read. These publishers exploit amateur writers’ gullible belief that paid-for publishing can be the easy route to fame and fortune; Jane is helping to strip away the mystique.

As a case in point, I have just visited another book review site. Nothing on that site has ever received a bad review, which is hardly surprising since the vast bulk were published with a notorious American vanity press, and all the reviewers have published with the same press. I followed a link to consider one of the reviewers’ credentials: she is a teenager who has written a “young adult” novel that actually has a hackneyed tale more suitable for six-year-olds and is so badly written as to constitute borderline gibberish.

If predatory vanity presses did not exist, she would have needed to polish her craft and learn the basics before getting into print (with a legitimate publisher, naturally). Now she can call herself a “Published Author”, and sit in judgment on the works of other vanity-published authors who can also barely write. Admittedly, it may be a nice ego-boost for her, but I doubt her single-figure royalty cheques will even begin to cover the money she (or her hapless parents) have had to shell out on buying copies of her own books, since that particular imprint (whilst nominally “free to publish”) is not routinely stocked by book stores — for obvious reasons.

I do, however, agree that the review written in doggerel verse was not as effective as one in prose (unless it was intended as an ironic commentary on the quality of the poetry under discussion).