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One Poetry Reviewer Isn't a Fan of Our Poetry Reviewer

Get Serious is not only the title of a poetry collection by Jefferson Carter, recently reviewed in Tucson Weekly, but should serve as an admonition to the reviewer, Jarret Keene, as well. 

As one who has reviewed poetry collections—and in this case, Carter's latest book—it is difficult to understand, certainly impossible to accept, Jarret Keene's dependence on ageism as a primary standard for analyses. 

Keene writes ("Moody Metaphors," Books, Dec. 27, 2012), "[Getting] Serious sounds at times like an aging, embittered poet's final testament or last verses." These remarks are followed by ageist euphemisms: "When he remembers to pop his literary Viagra," or suggesting the poet "should consider sneaking Splenda into his moody lemonade," are condemnations of age-as-disease, and not poetry. They are not cute or coy; they are attempts to denounce a poet's poems based on stereotypical assumptions about age, assumptions that should trouble us all. (It makes readers wonder if Keene has ever read those notable works produced by older poets.)

To do this, however, Keene must first dismiss the idea that poems may have personae and assume every poem has one speaker who has no other identity as a narrator or poetic character, but is simply the poet himself, which violates one of the basics of Poetry 101. Many voices emerge in Carter's poetry and assume the first person narrator of 'I' just as in Robert Browning's verse, or those of Ezra Pound, T. S. Eliot, or W. H. Auden. Of course, Keene's approach creates sensationalism, that old cheap ploy to gain the attention of readers. 

Keene's review is an ad hominem attack using ageist rhetoric and caricature. The Tucson Weekly is not well represented by such ignorance, or viciousness which perpetuates ageist stereotyping to the exclusion of a poetry that is at once otherwise durable and valuable. 

Michael Gessner

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