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You Must Work Harder to Write Poetry of Excellence


While Canadian poetic practices have steadily pluralised since the early 1960s, the poetry review has remained stubbornly constant. You Must Work Harder to Write Poetry of Excellence is a critical, and at times hilarious survey of reviews of innovative Canadian poetry in English since 1961. What is at stake in the reviewing of poetry? What fantasies are inherent to the practice? How is poetry itself produced in the reviewing of poetry? Why has the reviewing of poetry remained largely invisible to self-reflexive critique? These are some of the many questions You Must Work Harder to Write Poetry of Excellence dares to ask in its query to determine if poetry reviewers can claim to have the authority they imagine they have over their chosen subject. As a retort to the retrograde trend that is poetry reviewing in Canada, You Must Work Harder to Write Poetry of Excellence is the first book to detail the production and structure of an "aesthetic conscience" and demonstrate how this functions as the dynamic administrative apparatus of any aesthetic ideology. In short, this book opens for the first time a new and desperately needed channel in Canadian criticism.


This lively, engagingly written, and theoretically sophisticated study takes a provocatively pointed look at postmodern Canadian poetry through the revealing lenses of its reviews: their ideological and moral blindspots, their lamented critical belatedness, and the "ongoing positions war" of their canonization practices. Mancini's theorizing of the "aesthetic conscience" and his astute analysis of the discourse of the "craft" of poetry are major additions to the critical work on reviewing. This is a "must" for anyone interested in Canadian poetry - and reviewing.

– Linda Hutcheon, author of The Canadian Postmodern; A Poetics of Postmoderism: History, Theory, Fiction; The Politics of Postmodernism.

In You Must Work Harder to Write Poetry of Excellence, Donato Mancini exposes and delimits the ideology behind a practice of poetry reviewing that functions more like diamond appraisal than intellectual engagement. If you read or write poetry whose clarity, carat, colour or cut is deemed flawed in such a critical political economy, you will find in Mancini’s work a challenge to aesthetic exclusivity that is incisive, expansive and potentially liberatory.

– Wayde Compton


The interdisciplinary practice of Donato Mancini focuses mainly on bookworks, poetry, and text-based visual art. He is the author of four books of procedural and visual writings: Ligatures (2005) and Æthel (2007), Buffet World (2011), and Fact 'N' Value (2011). His collaborative visual works have been exhibited in Canada, the United States, Scandinavia and Cuba.

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