Show Your Work!

By

matthewzapruder500Matthew Zapruder proposes we meet the current explosion of variety coursing through contemporary poetry head-on with a new kind of criticism. Zapruder wants critics to talk a little less about what the poem said and a little more about how the poem said it. Above all, Zapruder implores critics to give evidence for their opinions. “I believe,” writes Zapruder, author of The Pajamaist and American Linden, “that as a reader I am, like almost anyone except the reviewer and perhaps his or her unfortunate subject, much more interested in the kind of thinking that led to the judgments of quality than the judgments themselves.” And Zapruder must be on to something: his short, sensible, manifesto-like essay has touched a nerve. Since his piece was published two weeks ago, about 200 posted responses—many of them vehement to the point of outright meanness—have been fired off in reply.


Jesse Nathan is an editor at McSweeney’s and the managing editor of the Best American Nonrequired Reading. His poetry and essays have appeared or are forthcoming in jubilat, the American Poetry Review, the San Francisco Chronicle, and the Nation. He was born in Berkeley, grew up in Kansas, and lives now in San Francisco. More from this author →