The poem that comes holus-bolus while being sequentially laid out in lines.


ready for everything

He had the strong and sinewy look of the determined and patient walker, who is always going off, his long legs moving quietly and very regularly, his head straight, his beautiful eyes fixed on the distance, and his face filled with a look of steady defiance, an air of expectation—ready for everything, without anger, without fear.

Ernest Dalahaye, on Arthur Rimbaud, 1925, Beneath My Feet: Writers on Walking (Notting Hill Editions, 2018)


bad architecture

The poem stood like bad architecture filling the space of the page.


no dumping

A poem that was a dumpster of images.


write this with me

To write a poem that invites the reader into its composition.


useful list of errors

The erratum slip made for a convenient bookmark.


horrors of verse

Here Thomas Hardy informs us the trees from where the birds flew were on his right because he needed to rime with 'night'...

And the town-shine in the distance
    did but baffle here the sight,
And then a voice flew forward:
    “Dear, is’t you? I fear the night!”
And the herons flapped to norward
    In the firs upon my right.

[Thomas Hardy's "On a Heath"]


all in the index

He bragged he could write the whole book by simply perusing its index.


poet at the wheel

Never trust a poet who can drive. Never trust a poet at the wheel. If he can drive, distrust the poems.

—Martin Amis, The Information

[Encountered this quote in Garner’s Quotations]


little enlarged

Poets are so precious and proprietary about their litmag publications. They never ask how many people really read it.


practical plus

To poets prose seems much too practical and potentially profitable.


but what about

Remember, there is always a counter to whatever smart thing you can say about poetry.


things or signs

Her nouns were real things. Her nouns were signs.


thought for the new year

There is a lot of nasty stuff in life which comes breaking up our ecstasy, our inheritance. People should read more poetry and dream their dreams.

—Muriel Spark, A Good Comb: The Sayings of Muriel Spark (New Directions, 2020), edited by Penelope Jardine


cosmic index

Just reading the book’s index delighted me with its far-flung references.


act / object

Is it an act or object?

[This is not a question you can ask of the poem.]


critical concern

The critic worried that after his take-down of the Apollonian poet he might be smitten with donkey ears.


tepid praise

I’m mildly interested in that kind of poetry, but not wildly.



The poem you will write.


teaching poets

You can be too good a teacher-poet: One begins being thought of as a better teacher but a lesser poet.


should end well

The main thing about a story is that it should end well, and perhaps it is not too much to say that a story’s ending casts its voice, color, tone and shade over the whole work.

—Muriel Spark, The Informed Air (New Directions, reprint 2018)


blindspot words

Words one has a blindspot for; for example, in my case: perspicuity.


bars not spines

He began look upon the spines of the unread books as prison bars.


polyhedron box

The ‘box’ we call poetry is a polyhedron still building out new spaces.


bear with me

I think the poet decided to write a very long poem to test who among his readers were beyond discouragement.



Like any first words on the page, a title is a place to get started. The title shouldn't be considered sacred like a totem...it can be discarded at the whim of whatever words follow.


belongs neither

For [Luce] Irigaray, a philosophy that is also a wisdom of love requires a speech which is not ‘authoritarian’ or ‘pedagogical’. Instead, it should have as its aim the production of a ‘sharing’ between the speaker and the listener. When this occurs: ‘between the two something exists that belongs neither to the one nor to the other, nor moreover to any word. And this something must, in part, remain indeterminate’.

—Ben Grant, The Aphorism and Other Short Forms (Routledge, 2016) [quoted sections above come from Luce Irigaray’s The Way of Love (London and New York Continuum, 2002), translation by Heidi Bostic and Stephen Pluh├ácek.]


thus spoken

Specifics accrue to the speaker's authority.


some go this way, some the other

A fork in one’s life: religion or art.


mood bias

Paying more attention to how my mood may influence my reaction to a work of art.


pooh pooh who are you

She was dismissive of Frost’s poetry…ha, ha (last laugh?).

[Thinking of Lisa Jarnot]


through poetry

Poetry, for me, has been a slow education. In the seductiveness of patterned sound. In sensory imagery as a relatively direct mode of thought. In the cryptic encoding and decoding of experience. Ultimately in the exhilarating and unexpected transmission of thought, fact, and feeling that are not only made possible through poetry, but are irrepressible in it.

—Roo Borson, Counterclaims: Poets and Poetries, Talking Back (Dalkey Archive Press, 2020)



A work of art that had no afterlife beyond the death of its creator.


it's all there

He reached a point where it was enough to compose the poem in his mind—no need to write it down.


literary props

His was a house stager’s library.


prompted by prufrock

In the barroom the men come and go
Talking of DiMaggio.


not alive until

One day, poetry saved my life.


its roots in language

The ontology of poetry is inextricably rooted in language itself.


didn't know that

Something I just learned today: The ‘literary piano’ was an early nickname for the typewriter.

[Later I heard the term 'alphabet piano' which I like even better.]


prose resolve

The prose we write about poems must try not to shrivel before the poems we write.

—Frank Bidart, Counterclaims: Poets and Poetries, Talking Back (Dalkey Archive Press, 2020), edited by H. L. Hix.


poem evident

A poem is evidence of human presence…no less than a fossilized footprint on a riverbank from prehistoric times.


far fort

A poet stationed at the outpost of a college town otherwise surrounded by hostiles.


so long longhand

Will I ever again return to writing longhand, and the pleasure of seeing the letters unfold slowly into words across the page. Nothing written can be taken back without crossing-out.


advantage poet

Philosophers and poets are both familiar with the power of the aphorism. Poets have an advantage because they’re not worried about justifying their assertions.


older and shorter

Variation on Pascal: If I was older I’d have written you a shorter poem.


no echoes

Slowly from nice neat letters;
doing things well
is more important than doing them.


Wake up singers!
Time for the echoes to end
and the voices to begin.


Quarreler, boxer
fight it out with the wind.
It’s not the fundamental I
that the poet is searching for
but the essential you.

—Antonio Machado, There is No Road (White Pine Press, 2003), Mary G. Berg and Dennis Maloney translators.


free from mirrors

In the spare and luminous language of Machado, we find extraordinary sensitivity to place and landscape, as well as a genuine feeling for local folklore and for song as a living tradition from which to learn. His poetry is not the poetry of closed rooms but that of the open air. Many of his poem were written as the result of long walks through towns and hillsides. He often entered the inner world by first penetrating the outer world of landscapes and objects. “It is,” Machado said, “in the solitude of the countryside that a man ceases to live with mirrors.”

From the preface by Mary G. Berg and Dennis Maloney to There is No Road (White Pine Press, 2003) by Antonio Machado.


no horizon

A poem in which you could see forever.


no limit

Writing at its best will not admit its limits in language.


dies in order to rise

In a certain sense the act of writing dies in print, then awaits resurrection by audience reaction.


dream imagination

One value of dreams is that they build confidence in the power of our imaginations.


escaped pen

Writing in bed: Too much scrabbling about the bedclothes searching for my pen.


close but not long

For a poet, all reading is close reading—which may explain why some of them have such difficulty getting through novels.

—Peter Robinson, Spirit of the Stair: Selected Aphorisms (Shearsman Books Ltd., 2009)


apology for political poetry

Someone will always be making apologies for political poetry.


drop zone

A poet doesn’t sit down to write so much as s/he must parachute over unknown territory.


spirit word

Isn’t the word ‘poem’ a spirit in the world?


let me tell you

Gamblers will let slip news of their recent winnings while being stoic and tight-lipped as regards to their long losing streaks, and it’s the same with writers and their acceptances against the larger accumulation of rejection slips.


posed poiesis

In Stevens’ poems all the important questions about poetry are posed.


etch in light

There is no way you can not have a poetics
no matter what you do: plumber, baker, teacher

you do it in the consciousness of making
or not making yr world
you have a poetics: you step into the world
like a suit of readymade clothes

or you etch in light
your firmament spills into the shape of your room
the shape of the poem, of yr body, of yr loves

—Diane di Prima, from "Rant"


naming rights

With his writing and publishing not going well, he hatched a scheme to begin copyrighting the works of Anonymous as his own.