How does one review a collected works? I’m having some problems figuring out an approach that doesn’t reduce to “do you like what so-and-so has written over the course of his/her career? Then you’ll probably like this.”
I suppose a reviewer could review the poet’s career as a whole, but that seems a daunting, if not impossible, task for an essay the length of most reviews, especially given the kind of ground that a Collected Poems tends to cover.
With a Selected Poems, the reviewer can admire or question (or both) the choices that the editor made, but even that feels, to me, like the editor is being reviewed rather than the poet (assuming the poet wasn’t involved in the intricacies of the poems being chosen). That requires a fairly extensive knowledge of the poet’s career, since one is looking at what was excluded as much as what was included, but it’s a decent way of attacking the book.
But for a Collected, I really have no idea. I don’t have one on my plate to review or anything, but I get them across my desk from time to time, and have problems getting people to take them on. Any suggestions? I’m open to anything.