Being a writer and sending work out for publication consideration is NOT  for the faint of heart. But as my first writing mentor used to say: “I’m not in this just for my own entertainment...I want to be heard!”

Those words have stuck with me over the past fifteen years of my writing life. Not only do they apply to the process of sending out poems; when the work is complete and polished--it’s time to get some reader feedback, for better or worse.

The first time around (four years ago when my second poetry collection launched) I was fortunate to receive an insightful, sensitive review from Kirkus that was, to my delight, extremely positive and came with a “star” rating.

Still, one never knows what the next turn will bring. So, yes, I was somewhat reluctant to sign on to having my current collection reviewed, but I remembered my mentor’s words and my desire to remain fearlessly open to critical opinion.

And I took heart in Kirkus’s promise to match my work with a potential reviewer who could both understand and enjoy the poetry I write. Someone who might “get” what I was trying to do, or, conversely, point out what I wasn’t accomplishing despite my best efforts.

There is also the option not to have your review posted if you do not like it. So, for anyone trembling at the thought of a blight on your public literary vine, remember there is always an escape route you can take if necessary! But aren’t you kind of dying to know what people think??? A leap of faith is required; yet, it IS just one person’s opinion and not the final word--never forget that.

To say the review was well worth it is an understatement. Not only was my reviewer intelligent and well-informed, the piece is a pithy, compelling read. The references to contemporary culture match certain strains of the book’s poetic content as do their attention to canon literature. I highly appreciate both those elements. If part of the purpose of signing on for a Kirkus Review is to attract readers, it takes more than receiving stars and laudatory remarks; you want the review itself to be tight and interesting and I feel that was achieved in my case.

Already I am experiencing an increase in book sales and interest in my work. It is GREAT to be able to announce to the world that your book received a Starred Kirkus Review. People are impressed, want to read all about it and are way more inclined to invite you to their campus, festival or bookstore to share your work! It definitely inspires admiration and opens doors to opportunities. That is SO IMPORTANT when attempting to garner attention in very crowded landscape of voices vying for limited space and light. I thank Kirkus for letting my book stand tall on its sunny shoulders and be seen.

 

Michelle Bitting has been published in the American Poetry Review, L.A. Weekly, Linebreak, the Weekly Feature, and others. Her book Good Friday Kiss won the DeNovo First Book Award and Notes to the Beloved received a starred Kirkus review. She holds an MFA in poetry from Pacific University, Oregon and is completing a Ph.D. in mythological studies at Pacifica Graduate Institute.