5.25.2017

multiply simply

The poem was simple in a thousand ways.

5.24.2017

grown thoughtful

Older poets are prone to meditations.

5.23.2017

not this, not that...

If a poet flips through his/her book at a reading, that’s probably a bad sign. Shouldn’t almost any poem one turns to in the book be worth reading aloud?

5.22.2017

fortifications and formations

There are forms that are castles and those that are hordes.

5.20.2017

flying into himself

One quirk of his [Bill Knott's], which I saw several times, was what I called his "defensive rudeness." For example, someone would approach him and say something like, "I loved your book." And Bill would say, "Then you must have terrible taste in poetry." And turn on his heel, and walk away. In another situation, he replied to the same kind of comment with, "Uh, I'm not from around here, umm, umm, I don't know the streets," and turned away. Needless to say, the people on the other end of this kind of exchange looked as if they were slapped in the face. I remember berating him about this, a few times, and his response was a shrug. He simply did not know how to respond to anything positive.

[...]

In June 2015, Robert Fanning; Leigh Jajuga, a friend of Bill's and an assistant in his last years; Star Black, the poet and photographer, and a friend of Bill's; and I, buried Bill's ashes in Carson City, MI, his hometown. Robert had a small stone made. It says: "William Knott 1940-2014 / I Am Flying into Myself." The line is from a poem called "Death" in his first book:

      Going to sleep, I cross my hands on my chest.
      They will place my hands like this.
      It will look as though I am flying into myself.

—Tom Lux, "Bill Knott: Can My Voice Save My Throat," Knowing Knott: Essays on an American Poet (Tiger Bark Press, 2017), edited by Steven Huff.

[Note: The poet Tom Lux passed away shortly after he edited Bill Knott's posthumous selected poems, I Am Flying Into Myself (FSG, 2017).]

5.18.2017

style points

Style is the inevitable verbal residue of a significant writer. Real style cannot be shared or mimicked, it being the unique markings of that one writer.

5.17.2017

clearly sealed

A book of poems found in its original shrink wrap.

5.15.2017

escape poem

Who knows what poem will escape into the world and be known?

5.14.2017

five beats is all

Blank verse can make you believe in any line.

5.13.2017

price paid

The one price you pay for poetry is attention.

-+-

If you believe, as I do, that poetry is a part of the world's work—a human need—you don't feel time spent on poetry is idle. Poetry's not a luxury but a deep and permanent part of language making.

—Mary Ponsot, Knopf's Question-a-Poet Contest (April 2000)

5.11.2017

stuck here & there

After the critic got finished with the poem it was a pincushion of far-fetched associations.

5.10.2017

opposite directions

It was one of those I-go-this-way-you-go-that-way poems.

5.08.2017

pleasant company excluded

Don’t be that poet who writes only to please.

5.06.2017

difficult and rare

But all things excellent are as difficult as they are rare.

—Baruch Spinoza, Ethics (1677)

5.04.2017

stacked and racked

It was a poetry book with a high body count.

5.03.2017

say it

Poet, be courageous in your rhetoric.

5.02.2017

metaphorge

The kind of metaphor that seems to forge its connection before one's eyes.

5.01.2017

caged singers

The critic had fabricated some elaborate birdcages for his favorite singers.

4.30.2017

going there

A poet doesn’t know what’s ineffable.

4.29.2017

poems distilled

15
Memory is the purest form of imagination.
(Wordsworth, “I Wandered Lonely as a Cloud”)

45
Anyone can be a gun, but it takes a poet to go off half-cocked.
(Dickinson, 768)

169
Finding a poem in a blank page is like finding a snowman in flakes still falling from the sky.
(Stevens, “The Snow Man”)

321
The lamb that hears the growl needn’t stick around for the howl.
(Ginsberg, “Howl”)

454
A dream’s best intentions often end up a waking nightmare.
(L. Hughes, “Let America Be America Again")

464
Sometimes we have to die many times to figure out how we want to live.
(Plath, “Lady Lazarus”)

—George Murray, Quick (ECW Press, 2017)

4.27.2017

no contest

Don’t tell me about your petty prizes. I want to read your incontestable poem.

4.26.2017

too much

The poem was perfumed music.

4.25.2017

essence of

Squeeze a parable and get a proverb.

4.24.2017

deep meaning

A poem that was smart all the way down to the level of etymology.

4.19.2017

poet's lot

His therapist assured him that being an unknown poet was not something to be ashamed of.

4.17.2017

contemporaneity

George Steiner often insists that the concept of “contemporaneity” should be taken into serious consideration. For instance, it is crucial to know that Édouard Manet and Charles Baudelaire lived at the exact same time in order to understand the deep relevance of one’s work to the other’s. Manet’s fascination with eroticism and modernity coexisted with a more classical touch, which was rooted in a long tradition of painting. In that sense, when his oeuvre was presented in 2011 at Musée d’Orsay in Paris, naming him the “man who invented modernity,” such a claim could only be accurate if related to the perpetuation of certain traditions. Modernity exists alongside tradition. And Baudelaire stands in a similar position. The literary critic Antoine Compagnon famously described his poems as “antimodern,” meaning that they were written as much in contradiction to as in close relation to modernity. Therefore, Baudelaire’s poems and Manet’s paintings, which may seem to be produced in parallel realities, indeed have a lot in common.

—Donatien Grau, The Age of Creation (Sternberg Press, Berlin, 2015)]

4.15.2017

gnarled lines

With its many digressions, the poem tied itself up in knots.

4.12.2017

step back

The poet talks the prose line back from the edge.

4.11.2017

well-wrought ask

A question must be composed better than a statement.

4.10.2017

not a transcendent act

I was going to suggest that 'This poem needs to molt its form.' Then I realized that act is not a metamorphosis.

4.09.2017

cross purposes

When the narrative intersects with the random.

4.08.2017

requisite equine

I put horses in poems, but I’ve never ridden one. They just seem like a good thing to put into literature.

—Sarah Manguso, 300 Arguments (Graywolf Press, 2017)

4.03.2017

shared dream

I thought she said the poem was “dream of consciousness.”

4.01.2017

word hose

That line was a firehose of words…

3.28.2017

second to none

Even among anthology pieces the poem stood out.

3.26.2017

my stalker

I once perhaps lingered too long on Sarah Lawrence College’s MFA in Creative Writing website. Since then whoever, or what bot, manages their web advertising has had an ad follow me around the web. It seems wherever I surf there is this ad featuring a comely and sincere looking creative writing teacher holding her hand up, with a slightly bent forefinger, as though she were instructing me. After a month or so, being followed around the web by her, my intended instructor, I think of her as a stalker.

3.25.2017

affluent

Each line a tributary.

3.24.2017

everything and nothing

The words of my book nothing, the drift of it everything.

—Walt Whitman, "Shut Not Your Doors," Leaves of Grass (1865)

3.21.2017

backdoor left unlocked

Often the best poems one writes are those poems one backs into.

3.20.2017

rejection note

It’s nice to see the evolution of your poetry, proving so well that you don’t believe in intelligent design.

3.18.2017

thin as it may seem

Language is the organizing scrim that makes the world intelligible.

3.16.2017

poem at large

Leaving a page of poetry at the bus stop or on a park bench is not littering.

3.15.2017

deep dark line

Her lines mattered like those of an etcher.

3.14.2017

no mouth

Readers:
Roses have no mouth,
So they address your nose with their scent.
The moon has no mouth,
So it speaks to your eyes with its light.
Then with what should a poet speak?

—Oguma Hideo, from “Talk Up a Storm,” Long, Long Autumn Nights: Selected Poems of Oguma Hideo, 1901-1940 (Center for Japanese Studies, The U. of Michigan, 1989)

3.13.2017

unread and not ready

Too much speaking about poetry without due study.

3.12.2017

solid, liquid or gas

As a solid the poem is a form, it can be held and viewed easily from all sides. In a liquid state the poem moves, flows, divides and recombines, never easy to contain. As a gas the poem is not easy to see, it rises and dissipates quickly, leaving no trace. The ideal state of a poem is liquid.

3.10.2017

one-way street

Some failed philosophers become poets, but failed poets seldom become philosophers.

3.09.2017

reading report

I heard the poet A.E. Stallings read today. It was the 54th Wallace Stevens Poetry Program reading. Her work was weaker than all the past readers I’ve heard (going back over a decade). She has a strong background in the Classics (Greek & Latin) but it seems wasted when it comes to her poetry. Stallings read a ‘limerick sequence’ (if you could believe someone would think writing one was a good idea) based on various mythic figures and tales…wow, that was a painful experience to hear. I did like one poem based on the Minotaur myth, wherein the Minotaur isn't slayed by Theseus, but dies trapped below earth after an earthquake has collapsed the structures above his labyrinth.

Stallings is also a translator from the Greek and Latin. I liked something she said about that. Paraphrasing her here: ‘I prefer to translate dead poets. They don’t have any opinions about or objections to your translation.’

3.08.2017

waiting for light

Paintings stacked in a basement; poems in an unopened book.

3.07.2017

word stock

One of the many beneficent aspects of poetry: Learning new words.

3.06.2017

hung in space and silence

     My own notion of a poetry reading is quite different. I want the poet to talk about his poems as little as possible, and not so much about the poems as about something one step removed. The voice in which he does his talking unfortunately is the same voice the poor poems must borrow. The more we hear him the less we may be able to hear them.
     I should like poems hung, one at a time, like Japanese pictures, on the exquisite air, each poem surrounded by space and silence.

—Robert Francis, The Satirical Rogue on Poetry (U. of Massachusetts Press, 1968).

3.05.2017

scenes from my life

Was that a book of poems or a verbal scrapbook of family vignettes?

3.04.2017

known by heart

Without glancing at the contents page or index he cracked open the book at the very poem he wanted to read again.

2.28.2017

not god (sic) enough

Even if a god offered to ghost write the poem the poet would demur.

2.27.2017

in the public square

A symbol monger. An image grinder. A diction trader. A rhetoric freak. A sound dog.

2.26.2017

written over

Critic, create an exegesis that exceeds the text.

2.25.2017

reality calling

In ordinary language words call up the reality, but when language is truly poetic, the reality calls up the words.

Joseph Joubert, Joubert: A Selection from His Thoughts (Dodd, Mead & Co., 1899), translated by Katharine Lyttelton.

2.24.2017

not beyond me

Poetry doesn’t need those disappointed poets who have stopped reading and writing poetry only because their work was never recognized.

2.23.2017

on the down low

Let’s keep poetry our secret. Otherwise the culture will only ruin it for us.

2.22.2017

sargeant major

With a glance at the page, the words started to fall into line and form ranks.