September 8th, 2009 / 12:41 pm
Author Spotlight

Chris Tonelli on Ellen Kennedy, at Open Letters Monthly

3140965108_6363f67db4-212x300After the epic fail that was Matt Soucy’s lazy, mean-spirited review in Coldfront–a rare blunder for one of the best poetry sites out there–it brings me enormous pleasure to direct your attention to Chris Tonelli’s excellent microreview of sometimes my heart pushes my ribs, newly online at Open Letters Monthly.

In personal or private moments, like the one above, Kennedy’s speakers relentlessly exhibit a kind of binary—ones and zeros—type honesty. They actually have the kinds of conversations we only have in our heads. For this reason, at least under Kennedy’s spell, Sometimes My Heart Pushes My Ribs feels like one of the purest examples of how to be good to one another, a contemporary collection of first-person parables.

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92 Comments

  1. Zip

      VOICE OF REASON

  2. Zip

      VOICE OF REASON

  3. Justin Taylor

      Hey, CCC, go fuck yourself. I’ve had it up to hear with your weird way of addressing me. little vontz? Seriously dude, go creep somebody else out.

  4. Justin Taylor

      Hey, CCC, go fuck yourself. I’ve had it up to hear with your weird way of addressing me. little vontz? Seriously dude, go creep somebody else out.

  5. Justin Taylor

      Steven, et al- the review is bad because it’s bad, not because it’s negative. If you want a great and totally relevant counter-example, see Kati Nolfi’s review of Tao’s novella in the current Bookslut. She really, really, really hated a book that I liked a lot, but her review is thorough, engaged and very smart. In fact, I’m going to link it in a post later, probably, because it’s really worth reading.

  6. Justin Taylor

      Steven, et al- the review is bad because it’s bad, not because it’s negative. If you want a great and totally relevant counter-example, see Kati Nolfi’s review of Tao’s novella in the current Bookslut. She really, really, really hated a book that I liked a lot, but her review is thorough, engaged and very smart. In fact, I’m going to link it in a post later, probably, because it’s really worth reading.

  7. Chris Tonelli

      the review over at coldfront was dismissive in a crotchety way. i mean in tone. as if there is no way something like kennedy’s book could even considered art. i mean, you could prolly quote something smart from the review, but overall, i don’t think the reviewer was open to even considering kennedy’s work. like my mom looking at duchamp and going, “but he just hung a urinal on the wall.”

      what “real publications” require disclosure. i mean, you’ve heard of whitman, right? he reviewed himself for chrissakes. poetry has a long history of building communities who start presses and publish one another, not just because their friends, but because they love each others work. i can’t believe i even had to say that.

  8. Chris Tonelli

      the review over at coldfront was dismissive in a crotchety way. i mean in tone. as if there is no way something like kennedy’s book could even considered art. i mean, you could prolly quote something smart from the review, but overall, i don’t think the reviewer was open to even considering kennedy’s work. like my mom looking at duchamp and going, “but he just hung a urinal on the wall.”

      what “real publications” require disclosure. i mean, you’ve heard of whitman, right? he reviewed himself for chrissakes. poetry has a long history of building communities who start presses and publish one another, not just because their friends, but because they love each others work. i can’t believe i even had to say that.

  9. Justin Taylor

      Yes, and the truth is that as far as disclosures go, the one to be made is not about Ellen–a person I admire very much, but know in “real life” only in a very limited way. I wish I knew her better, frankly, but them’s the breaks. If you want a disclosure, how about the fact that I went to grad school with John Deming, Graeme Bezanson and Melinda Wilson–the three heads of Coldfrontmag.com. I’ve known them for years, and spent oodles more time with them than I ever have (or probably ever will) with Ellen Kennedy. Does this affect anyone’s reading of my calling them out about Soucy’s review? Does it maybe explain why I bothered to fold a compliment into the middle of that critique? Or is it possible, just maybe, that these facts have NOTHING to do with the issue at hand, which is emphatically NOT about who knows who (Ellen Kennedy is friends with Tao Lin! Have you heard?) but is about what makes (or doesn’t make) for useful criticism.

      Also, full disclosure- John and Melinda are DATING. Have been for years. They even live together, so I bet they’ve seen each other naked. And yet they run a poetry criticism website! Together! How inside baseball is that shit?

  10. Justin Taylor

      Yes, and the truth is that as far as disclosures go, the one to be made is not about Ellen–a person I admire very much, but know in “real life” only in a very limited way. I wish I knew her better, frankly, but them’s the breaks. If you want a disclosure, how about the fact that I went to grad school with John Deming, Graeme Bezanson and Melinda Wilson–the three heads of Coldfrontmag.com. I’ve known them for years, and spent oodles more time with them than I ever have (or probably ever will) with Ellen Kennedy. Does this affect anyone’s reading of my calling them out about Soucy’s review? Does it maybe explain why I bothered to fold a compliment into the middle of that critique? Or is it possible, just maybe, that these facts have NOTHING to do with the issue at hand, which is emphatically NOT about who knows who (Ellen Kennedy is friends with Tao Lin! Have you heard?) but is about what makes (or doesn’t make) for useful criticism.

      Also, full disclosure- John and Melinda are DATING. Have been for years. They even live together, so I bet they’ve seen each other naked. And yet they run a poetry criticism website! Together! How inside baseball is that shit?

  11. Matt Cozart

      The old days? Which old days are those? In the old days Walt Whitman wrote reviews of Walt Whitman under false names. In the old days Ezra Pound reviewed T.S. Eliot. In the old days Shelley reviewed Keats (not that they were friends exactly, but they knew each other).

  12. Matt Cozart

      The old days? Which old days are those? In the old days Walt Whitman wrote reviews of Walt Whitman under false names. In the old days Ezra Pound reviewed T.S. Eliot. In the old days Shelley reviewed Keats (not that they were friends exactly, but they knew each other).

  13. Matt Cozart

      L’il Vontz sounds like the name of a comic strip character circa 1910.

  14. Matt Cozart

      L’il Vontz sounds like the name of a comic strip character circa 1910.

  15. Matt Cozart

      Why should a review concern itself with book sales at all? That’s extraliterary, gossipy stuff.

  16. Matt Cozart

      Why should a review concern itself with book sales at all? That’s extraliterary, gossipy stuff.

  17. david erlewine

      CCC, please enlighten us. Where does “little vontz” come from? It does sound like a comic strip character before WWI or perhaps a Yiddish term. I’m confused and curious.

      I do agree with Justin that it’s creepy.

  18. david erlewine

      CCC, please enlighten us. Where does “little vontz” come from? It does sound like a comic strip character before WWI or perhaps a Yiddish term. I’m confused and curious.

      I do agree with Justin that it’s creepy.

  19. Matt Cozart
  20. Matt Cozart
  21. david erlewine

      ha! i saw that link too. i’m intrigued.

  22. david erlewine

      ha! i saw that link too. i’m intrigued.

  23. Craig Snyder

      The reviewer at Coldfront certainly expressed some very strong emotions about Ellen’s book. I think there is some good sarcastic writing in the review but yes I found it unnecessarily harsh. The worst thing about the review is the TYPOGRAPHY. If you are going to use Times New Roman you ought to allow for a little more LINE-HEIGHT and larger PARAGRAPH MARGINS.

      Also, the title you see when mouse hovering the graphic of her book cover is “kennedy ellen cover” which is only marginally coherent.

  24. Craig Snyder

      The reviewer at Coldfront certainly expressed some very strong emotions about Ellen’s book. I think there is some good sarcastic writing in the review but yes I found it unnecessarily harsh. The worst thing about the review is the TYPOGRAPHY. If you are going to use Times New Roman you ought to allow for a little more LINE-HEIGHT and larger PARAGRAPH MARGINS.

      Also, the title you see when mouse hovering the graphic of her book cover is “kennedy ellen cover” which is only marginally coherent.

  25. sarah m.g.

      I found the Coldfront review miles more entertaining for it’s rabiditiy than the Tonelli, but nothing about it formed any kind of opinion beyond the zero knowledge I had of Kennedy’s work to begin with. It was the Tonelli review that led me to conclude I wouldn’t be interested in reading it, which is what good crit should do, right?

      This thread is fighty.

  26. sarah m.g.

      I found the Coldfront review miles more entertaining for it’s rabiditiy than the Tonelli, but nothing about it formed any kind of opinion beyond the zero knowledge I had of Kennedy’s work to begin with. It was the Tonelli review that led me to conclude I wouldn’t be interested in reading it, which is what good crit should do, right?

      This thread is fighty.

  27. brandon

      seems that if someone defined ‘review’ it might be easier to decide whether the review ‘in question’ was ‘good’ or ‘bad’

  28. brandon

      seems that if someone defined ‘review’ it might be easier to decide whether the review ‘in question’ was ‘good’ or ‘bad’

  29. shampoo head

      I loved Ellen’s book. One reviewer said her vulgarity was too plain, not “exuberant” like Ginsberg’s vulgarity. So? I enjoyed every word in this wonderful book. Finally someone writing what goes on inside the head, instead of wearing the poet’s “hat.” Brava Ellen. You are wonderful. Trust your instincts, ok. The world will follow.

  30. shampoo head

      I loved Ellen’s book. One reviewer said her vulgarity was too plain, not “exuberant” like Ginsberg’s vulgarity. So? I enjoyed every word in this wonderful book. Finally someone writing what goes on inside the head, instead of wearing the poet’s “hat.” Brava Ellen. You are wonderful. Trust your instincts, ok. The world will follow.

  31. Matt
  32. Matt
  33. Justin Taylor

      David, I meant to thank you yesterday for posting this link. I spent some time on your site and it’s interesting. And yeah, it’s a solid piece on Ellen. Thanks for popping up.

  34. Justin Taylor

      David, I meant to thank you yesterday for posting this link. I spent some time on your site and it’s interesting. And yeah, it’s a solid piece on Ellen. Thanks for popping up.

  35. Justin Taylor

      Kathleen- Yes, I liked your review a lot. I thought I linked it back when the octopus issue first came out, but maybe I should have directed people there again. Anyway, thanks for throwing the link up–first time, again, or whatever.

  36. Justin Taylor

      Kathleen- Yes, I liked your review a lot. I thought I linked it back when the octopus issue first came out, but maybe I should have directed people there again. Anyway, thanks for throwing the link up–first time, again, or whatever.

  37. david miller

      word. thanks justin. i was stoked to hear about your creative writing students today. linked to that in my blog. we’ve just started teaching travel writing so it’s good to get all different perspectives. bigup.

  38. david miller

      word. thanks justin. i was stoked to hear about your creative writing students today. linked to that in my blog. we’ve just started teaching travel writing so it’s good to get all different perspectives. bigup.

  39. Matt Cozart

      Yeah, but I believe he believes what he’s saying. Honesty isn’t necessarily a virtue. Anybody can be honest. It’s easy. But being honest isn’t the same as being right.

  40. Matt Cozart

      Yeah, but I believe he believes what he’s saying. Honesty isn’t necessarily a virtue. Anybody can be honest. It’s easy. But being honest isn’t the same as being right.

  41. sugar

      i think ‘good’ and ‘bad’ mean ‘good to eat’ or ‘bad to eat’
      i think broccoli is good to eat but my friend hates broccoli
      hates it
      feels intense and passionate dislike for it

  42. sugar

      i think ‘good’ and ‘bad’ mean ‘good to eat’ or ‘bad to eat’
      i think broccoli is good to eat but my friend hates broccoli
      hates it
      feels intense and passionate dislike for it