Rochelle Hurt is the author of two collections of poetry: In Which I Play the Runaway (2016), which won the Barrow Street Book Prize, and The Rusted City (2014), which was selected for the Marie Alexander Series in prose poetry from White Pine Press. Her work has been included in the Best New Poets anthology series and she's been awarded prizes and fellowships from Crab Orchard Review, Arts & Letters, Hunger Mountain, Poetry International, Vermont Studio Center, Jentel, and Yaddo. She holds a PhD from University of Cincinnati, and is Assistant Professor of English and Creative Writing at Slippery Rock University. She runs the poetry review site The Bind.
- What was your motivation behind launching The Bind?
I think we should all be reading more books of poetry by women and nonbinary authors. Poetry doesn’t have quite the audience that fiction or nonfiction have, and even within the poetry community, new books by women still get overlooked. People read what’s recommended to them, and then they recommend that to others who do the same—it’s a cycle that often passively omits certain groups. There are so many great poetry collections and hybrid books out there that just aren’t getting enough attention from readers and reviewers. So I wanted to provide a space for more exposure that would be exclusive to poetry (including hybrid texts) by women and nonbinary authors. I know that the critical reviewing process can seem daunting, and this often prevents people from writing reviews, so my solution for the site was to focus primarily on creative responses as a way to make the work of reviewing—and reading reviews—more fun and rewarding.
- Where did the inspiration for the name of your website come from?
This is how I explained it to my team of regular reviewers: Think bookbinding; think spellbinding; think breast binding; think foot binding; think double binds and Marilyn Frye; think ties that bind; think binders full of women; think I bind you, Nancy, from doing harm; think binding and loosing; think binding together; think binding a wound.
- Why do you think reviewing is an important process for an author to experience (either as a reviewer or as a reviewee)?
I hear a lot of anecdotes about engineers and mechanics taking apart computers and cars in order to figure out how they work. I consider book reviewing to be an analogous activity for an author. This is why I love making charts and diagrams when I review a book. The deconstruction process helps me develop a deeper understanding of a text that goes beyond the pleasure of reading. I begin to notice patterns and intricacies that teach me about writing and organizing different kinds of books. Sometimes these patterns even extend outward into the larger literary, social, and political spheres, and this inevitably broadens my view of contemporary poetry and how my work stands in relation to others’. Essentially, I think of reviewing as a pedagogical process.
- What do you think makes a good review?
While I believe evaluative reviews have a purpose, I’m more interested as a writer and a reader in purely descriptive or creative reviews. What one reviewer sees as a shortcoming in any given collection, I may see as a brilliant poetic manoeuvre, so I’d rather just hear about it from someone who’s excited about that manoeuvre. My goal for reviews on The Bind is that they pique interest and open new doors of understanding for potential readers. I especially like reviews that give an overview but then take a specific angle, offering readers a surprising, idiosyncratic, or recontextualized view of a book. That said, the review should always be in service of the book more than the reviewer. Our cento reviews, for example, use the cento form not to simply make a new poem using another author’s words, but to highlight important elements of the source texts being reviewed, which are then further investigated in the critical commentary.
What one reviewer sees as a shortcoming in any given collection, I may see as a brilliant poetic manoeuvre, so I’d rather just hear about it from someone who’s excited about that maoneuvre.
- How did you come up with the idea of combining text with visual art in the reviews on the website? Is it a feature that you think more reviewers could incorporate?
I often employ multimodal teaching methods in the classroom in order to provoke students into new ways of thinking about a text. Our thoughts are shaped by the forms they take, so approaching a text visually, for example, can unlock perceptions that more traditional approaches, like critical writing, cannot. I think this is true for writers and readers (or viewers). Another way to put it is: sometimes you have to use a combination of vehicles to fully access a difficult route. A car may get you to the ocean, but you don’t have to stop there if you switch to a boat. This is why I’m always excited to see reviews that incorporate drawings, diagrams, collages, centos, games, and other creative forms (like Madeleine Wattenberg’s paper fortune teller for Claudia Cortese’s Wasp Queen or José Angel Araguz’s golden shovel in his review of Laurie Ann Guerrero’s A Crown for Gumecindo).
- How can interested OWH members get involved in the website?
We post a new review every Thursday, and readers who sign up for our email list can get that review delivered directly to their inboxes each week. In addition to our weekly reviews, we sometimes have extra features, like Katherine Webb’s Bad Drawings for Good Poetry. We’re always looking for new features and creative reviews, so I encourage readers to submit their reviews and responses using the guidelines on our site. Readers can also follow us on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram. Look for us using the handles @thebindreviews and @bind_reviews.