Should I Send Out Review Copies?
Sure, if you're rich enough. (Remember, the author pays for all those review copies sent out by the vanity presses, just as he does for self-published books.) Most review copies of poetry even from major publishers are not read, and of those read few are actually reviewed, and few people order books on the basis of having read reviews. It is worth your while to be selective, sending books only to those periodicals which you know will review poetry and, if possible, to the person primarily responsible for reviewing poetry for the periodical. A little research in the library will help. Also read the Publish-It-Yourself-Handbook, [out of print], Dustbooks, [P.O. Box 100, Paradise, CA 95967], for tips; from the same address get The Small Press Review and Margins [Margins is no longer published] – two publications which do review self-published poetry. Quotations from reviews may be valuable in advertising and other promotional efforts. [The Publish-It-Yourself-Handbook, according to the publisher, was a collection of essays by various people on the subject of publishing. It is no longer in print. However, Dustbooks sells the Self-Publishing Manual, which is a step-by-step guide to publishing (I haven't read it, so I don't know how good it is).]
But do you really want a critic's opinion of your work? Dozens of books of poetry are sent me each year by their authors, usually with a request for my opinion, and as I throw them away I think, "You don't really want to know." Perhaps you enjoy playing the piano – and your friends enjoy hearing you. But it would help neither you nor the world of music for you to get a professional music critic's opinion of your performance. Why should you care? Spend a few hours reading modern poetry – in anthologies, in literary magazines, the quarterlies, the quality magazines. Would the critics and editors who like what you read there be likely to enjoy your poetry? And does it matter? Some of those volumes I receive are from poets who explicitly and avowedly detest modern poetry. Their own work sounds a little like Myrtle Whimple's elegy for her departed husband, which begins:
Another man has learned
And yet all up and down the street
If that is the kind of poetry you write, enjoy it. It is delightful in its way. But save yourself embarrassment and expense and don't try to get it reviewed!
[In On Being a Poet, Judson described Myrtle Whimple as something of a folk poet or people's poet (my terms, not his) who became famous in the Midwest in the mid-1970's. However, a recent internet search turned up no mention of her, which is unusual for someone who was famous just 25 years ago. I think that Judson's fascination with Myrtle was that she achieved fame writing poetry which was pretty bad, whereas his own poetry never sold very well. There's no justice, is there?]