Joanna Long, ed., A Little Book for Writers (Word and Image Press, 1991)
[originally posted 11Jul2001]
I was wondering, after reading page one, why on earth I’d kept this nauseating little tract around, until I got to page eight and found one of my own absolutely unreadable early poems in it. Time to disown THAT particular piece of trash. This would seem to be meant as an inspirational booklet to be a kind of written support group for writers; forty-three pages of poetry, short prose, and nonfiction blurbs from Ms. Long (a religious/historical fiction novelist) and others. While I won’t come right out and say that any of the advice therein is wrong, some of it is most certainly bad (“Compare yourself only with yourself—never with others,” Long admonishes in “Necessary Reminders,” and a less accurate piece of advice I’ve not heard since the head of Encore Books told a roomful of managers that “liking books is not a necessary trait of a successful bookstore owner”). I, however, will let the reader judge for himself by offering one of the (mercifully) short pieces from the first page, Milo von Strom’s “Every Poet’s Quest”:
Poets continually daydream
of mastering a simplistic style.
Omitting thousands of worthless words
as each unique line edges one closer
to a perfected purity in verse.
(zero. minus stars, if I had such a thing.)