created an equivalent

I simply function when I take a picture. I do not photograph with preconceived notions about life. I put down what I have to say when I must. That is my role, according to my own way of feeling it. Perhaps it is beyond feeling.

What is of greatest importance is to hold a moment, to record something so completely that those who see it will relive an equivalent* of what has been expressed.


I want solely to make an image of what I have seen, not of what it means to me. It is only after I have created an equivalent of what moved me that I can begin to think about its significance.

Shapes, as such, do not interest me unless they happen to be an outer equivalent of something already taking form within me. To many, shapes matter in their own right. As I see it, this has nothing to do with photography, but with the merely literary or pictorial.

—Alfred Stieglitz, quoted by Dorothy Norman in Alfred Stieglitz (The History of Photography Series, Aperture, Inc. 1976).

*After 1922 Stieglitz used the term "Equivalents" to describe his photographic series of clouds.


go at it like that

Like words gouged into stone with fingernails.


slave labor language

Language easily becomes enslaved by falling into its habitual and customary means of expression. The poet breaks those word chains.


everything mien

A poet who scoffs at the uncontainability of the cosmos.


little pieces

A long poem that lives on by its excerpts.


silent tribute

Cavafy was as reticent and decorous in conversation as he was outspoken in his poetry—some things, he said, needed art to make them beautiful. But it is related that if a beautiful face showed itself in his house, he paid it the silent tribute of lighting another candle.

—Robert Liddell, “Studies in Genius, VII – Cavafy,” Horizon, Vol XVIII, 105, 1948.



It takes more than regular meter to give a heartbeat to a poem.


image machine

Perhaps the ascendance of the camera pushed painting to explore abstraction.


poetry third

The secret of being a great poet lies in having an abiding interest in the world and in humankind, and not in one’s attention to poetry.


obsessed or possessed

If only this poem would let me alone so that I might live.


mind the gap

Recall that audio admonishment inside the London Underground, ‘Mind the gap’: A metaphor’s power is ‘the gap’; and the mind must leap that gap.


embrace the anarchic

To make life...to create interest and vividness, it is necessary to break form, to distort pattern, to change the nature of our civilization. In order to create it is necessary to destroy; and the agent of destruction in society is the poet. I believe that the poet is necessarily an anarchist, and that he must oppose all organized conceptions of the State, not only those which we inherit from the past, but equally those which are imposed on people in the name of the future.

—Herbert Read, Poetry and Anarchism (Faber and Faber, 1938)


broken box

A poem is a genre wrecking literary instrument.


derived value

Perhaps the poem is a derivative product; its value pegged to human experience.


executable file

It may show up attached as .doc or .pdf, but a poem is really an .exe file.


ropes that rub

Paradox is apt to strike the poet as metaphor.


cased the joint

He cased the poem thoroughly like a good critic always does.


exploded world

Critics talking about ‘supertechnology’ and ‘the mediated eye’ in the seventies and eighties couldn’t know they were living in the Stone Age.


subtleties of the game

Gradually, in what at first had been purely mechanical repetitions of the championship matches, an artistic, pleasurable understanding began to awaken in me. I learned to understand the subtleties of the game [chess], the tricks and ruses of attack and defense, I grasped the technique of thinking ahead, combination, counter-attack, and soon I could recognize the personal style of every grandmaster as infallibly from his own way of playing a game as you can identify a poet’s verses from only a few lines.

—Stephan Zweig, Chess (Penguin Mini Modern Classics, 2011: Copyright Stephan Zweig 1943; translation copyright by Anthea Bell, 2006)


twenty-six tones

A whole alphabet of musical notes.


numbing mumble

Academic speak lacking the least spark of insight.


catching glories

10. Poetry catches the sheen and sound of glory in the here-and-now—in, between and among words, and between words and phenomena. That is to say, in the words themselves and also at all their borders and interfaces—with each other (when two); with one another (when more than two); and with the non-linguistic universe that is both ‘out there’ and ‘in here’, which is itself by definition not only the source of glory but also ineffable and speechless.

11. “Poetry catches…” This catching includes all senses and contexts of the English verb: (i) unwittingly, as one catches something contagious (e.g. laughing, yawning, a more or, unfortunately, a virus); (ii) whether by chance or conscious effort, as one catches something that is not necessarily obvious (e.g. a hint, a clue, an undertone, an implication, a suggestion, a purport, an intention, a meaning); (iii) deliberately, as one catches something thrown or dropped, before it lands elsewhere (e.g. a ball, a leaf); (iv) equally deliberately, as one catches a creature that one has been searching for or hunting (a lion, a fish, a butterfly); (v) or as one can be caught unawares (in a situation, by a memory), etc.

12. So catching glory or catching glories is not a bad definition of what poetry does. And is.

—Richard Berengarten, “On Poetry and Catching Glories,” Imagems 1 (Shearsman Books, 2013)



Perhaps the model of a good MFA program would be a kind of revolving hub, centered around a workshop set spinning with its aesthetic energy, generating critical friction, throwing off sparks—those MFA graduates who start their own creative fires across the cultural landscape.


first art

The joy to think that our art originates in the era of the earliest human speech.


uneasy relations

Translation is a negotiation between fidelity and the lust to know the other.


to know by echo

Critics: Literary latecomers with all the answers.


profligate pages

To publish prolifically is an act of disrespect toward the art of poetry.


infallible test

In poetry, in which every line, every phrase, may pass the ordeal of deliberation and deliberate choice, it is possible, and barely possible, to attain that ultimatum which I have ventured to propose as the infallible test of a blameless style; namely: its untranslatableness in words of the same language without injury to the meaning.

—Samuel Taylor Coleridge, Biographia Literaria (1817), ch. 22


fidget word

The one word that wouldn’t sit still in the poem.


first forty-eight

In the first 24, in the first 48. Like the hours after a crime, these early words are so important to solving the poem.


therefore iamb

When people asked if he was a formalist poet, he’d answer: “I amb.”


more light

So often in a writer’s photo it’s a wan person holed up in a little room, hunched over a typewriter or keyboard, with a shelf of books where a window should be.


big head

One of those titles that was smarter by half than the poem itself.


revision resistant

The problem was that the poem couldn’t be improved upon.


candy words

Nouns and verbs are sustenance. But ah, the confection of certain adjectives.


in silence and solitude

Poetry and letters
Persist in silence and solitude.

—Tu Fu, "Night in the House by the River," translated by Kenneth Rexroth, One Hundred Poems from the Chinese (New Directions, 1956)


team player

He was happy to be a minor member of a well-known group.


stray strong

The line that strays is always the strongest one.


go small

The image was symbolic when it needed to be specific.


flavor and texture

To speak the poem would give mouthfuls of pleasure as though eating a fine meal.


back and forth

The poem as the site of reciprocity between the impulse of emotion and the shaping force of language.


are you ready yet

Some poems would engage you no matter when encountered; other poems must await that moment in your life that has opened you to them.



And then I had always liked the old miracle and morality plays in which no word has any ambiguity at all. I don’t like ambiguity. I suppose it’s all right if the ambiguous things a work means are interesting and exciting, but often they’re not.

—Kenneth Koch, "A Conversation with Kenneth Koch," Field: Contemporary Poetry and Poetics, Number 7, Fall 1972.


dignified literary death

His aspiration was to be the last person ever crushed by a bookcase having fallen on him.


note totems

When scholarship becomes ritualistic practice, it’s all about getting the footnotes right.


more about the dead

Critics so out of touch with the contemporary they just go on elaborating obituaries.


operative emotion

Some enjoy American musicals with their transparent songs of love, joy and loss. Others prefer operas for, even as those foreign words wash over them on the level of sense, the sounds fill them with emotion.


no way to say

There’s no word for that.


brussels lace

     My work, whatever form it may take, is seen as mischief, as lawlessness, as an accident. But that’s how I like it, so I agree. I subscribe to it with both hands.
      It is a question of how you look at it. What I prize in the doughnut is the hole. But what about the dough of the doughnut? You can gobble up the doughnut, but the hole will still be there.
      Real work is Brussels lace, the main thing in it is what holds the pattern up: air, punctures, truancy.

—Osip Mandelstam, "Fourth Prose," The Noise of Time: Selected Prose (Northwestern Univ. Press, 1993), translated by Clarence Brown.


word grist

Mouth and tongue, mortar and pestle: Break down the words into syllable and phoneme.


in the service of art

Perhaps I’m less an artist, and more a servant of the art.


wild one

Poet, when they go vogue, you go rogue.


linear feet

A poet’s life measured in linear feet in the university library archive.


believable beginning

Advice to the creative writer: Start with the credible.


loose control

One of those studied tossed off poems.


that poetry

That poetry remains a broad permission.

That poetry is a controlled vocabulary for what fails to come to market.

That poetry is open to faithless arguments.

That poetry is a wilderness prior to philosophy.

That poetry is endlessly establishing conditions for fair use.

That within the poem a coming to terms may also mean a refusal to concede.

That the poem will not suffer its camouflage.

That the ‘voice of the poet’ is essentially an argument.

[A selection from a grouping indexed as 'key: SUSPENDED JUDGMENTS']

—A Maxwell, Peeping Mot (Apogee Press, 2013)


song gathers round

A song issues forth as sound waves: circles that widen outward so as to gather round, to draw close the far-flung members of the tribe.


wait it out

You could try to write more poems or you could just wait, trusting that some good ones will well up.


held time

The joy and sadness of an art like photography that arrests time.


poem made of ideas

I enjoyed reading the poetry prompt and thinking of a poem that might come from it...one I'd never write.