line limit

If this line keeps going on, ranging forward, loping along, it will soon reach the limit of the margin and become prose.


time (un)bound

The perfect poem is both of its time and absolutely outside of time.


first image

An image everyone missed until this moment.


by your hands

Poet, don’t accept the form, shape it.


great and simple images

A man’s work is nothing but this slow trek to rediscover, through the detours of art, those two or three great and simple images in whose presence his heart first opened.

—Albert Camus, Selected Essays and Notebooks (Penguin, 1979), translated by Philip Thody.


poetics of the political

It’s the poetics in a political poem that make it matter.


line by line

Lines that advance and lines that reinforce.


join the ranks

The least you could do after giving up on being a writer, is to become a serious reader.


new and abused

I had to give him credit for titling his book, New & Rejected Poems.


what is time, what is poetry

For what is time? Who can easily and briefly explain it? Who even in thought can comprehend it, even to the pronouncing of a word concerning it? But what in speaking do we refer to more familiarly and knowingly than time? And certainly we understand when we speak of it; we understand also when we hear it spoken of by another. What, then, is time? If no one ask of me, I know; if I wish to explain to him who asks, I know not.

—Augustine of Hippo, Confessions, Book XI (ca. 400 CE)

For what is poetry? Who can easily and briefly explain it? Who even in thought can comprehend it, even to the pronouncing of a word concerning it? But what in speaking do we refer to more familiarly and knowingly than poetry? And certainly we understand when we speak of it; we understand also when we hear it spoken of by another. What, then, is poetry? If no one ask of me, I know; if I wish to explain to him who asks, I know not.


apart from process

I know he wrote a lot of poetry, but did he write any poems? There being a difference.


conditional audience

An educated and experienced readership is the necessary and sufficient condition for great poetry.


retrospective advantage

Often when someone longs for ‘the spirit of the past’, they forget that spirit was a critical distillate made during a successive age.


breezy poem

How To Write A Breezy Poem
     by Charles “Chuck” Calabreze

1. Begin with “Because,” “When,” or “If.”

2. Mention two strangers. Describe in detail.

3. Tell where you’re watching from.

4. Create a simile involving a household pet.

5. Make a tentative philosophical observation.

6. Take back tentative philosophical observation.

7. Confess that you’ve lied about 1 & 2.

8. Change the subject entirely. Or write a series of similes involving various pop culture icons. Extra credit: Drop names of TV shows seen only on Nick at Nite.

9. Say what you’re really doing (i.e. writing a poem).

10. Confess that you don’t really know what you’re doing.

11. Tell what you’d rather be doing.

12. Write a brief passage proving that you’re not a capital ‘P’ poet (e.g., T.S. Eliot)

13. Further undermine your authority by impugning your motives. (Hint: reduce them to something base and trivial.)

14. Invent a simile or two or three using common kitchen appliances or objects.

15. Mention a friend’s marital or dating problems. Extra credit: Mention your married friend’s dating problems.

16. Make list of events beginning with “After.”

17. Make tentative psychological observation.

18. Take back tentative psychological observation.

19. Rapidly change the subject to avoid implication of 16.

20. Return to the strangers. Begin line “I swear.”

21. Envy something about the strangers. Example: Unselfconsciousness.

22. Mention an obscure rock ‘n’ roll band.

23. Praise the band extravagantly.

24. Change the subject again.

26. Apologize to the reader.

25. End with slightly obtuse but trivial observation grounded in everyday routine. If possible, be witty.

[Originally appeared in Countermeasures #3]


given to

A poet given to prose.


after gombrich

Art is made by artists and by the critics who recognize it in all its itness.


pointed texts

Documentary poetics: Utilizing found poetry for its political aspect.


more is less

What does it mean that after about five books you’ve not published a Selected? Then there was the poet who touted her twelve books of poems…by now shouldn’t you be announcing a New & Selected or a Collected?


vigilant elite

Always the literati must call out the lappers-up of the light popular.


art is

It is changing.

It has order.

It has variety.

It affects other things.

It is affected by other things.

It doesn’t have a specific place.

It doesn’t have a specific time.

Its boundaries are not fixed.

It may go unnoticed.

Part of it may also be part of something else.

Some of it is familiar.

Some of it is strange.

Some of it is unknown.

Knowing of it changes it.

To know of it is to be part of it.

Robert Barry 1970

[Robert Barry: An artist book (Karl Kerber Verlag – Bielfeld, 1986), edited by Erich Franz. Image: a typewritten single sheet of paper.]


literary collaborators

A manifesto makes room for the aphorism. The aphorism is made for a manifesto.


poem-eating contest

Nothing wrong with preferring bite-sized poetry, but you must test the limits of your appetite from time to time with long poems.


hearse chaser

I’m sorry that I only read your work when you were dead.


first to mine

In the course of one's reading, it's nice to think, even if it’s not true, that I’ve been first to mine this gemstone quotation.


single motion

He composed a line in a single motion, like an archer taking an arrow from a quiver.


floated promiscuously along

The difference, then, between the poetry of a poet, and the poetry of a cultivated but not naturally poetical mind is that in the latter, with however bright a halo of feeling the thought may be surrounded and glorified, the thought itself is still the conspicuous object; while the poetry of a poet is Feeling itself, employing Thought only as the medium of its utterance. In the one feeling waits upon thought; in the other, thought upon feeling. The one writer has a distinct aim, common to him with any other didactic author; he desires to convey the thought and he conveys it clothed in the feelings which it excites in himself, or which he deems most appropriate to it. The other merely pours forth the overflowing of his feelings; and all the thoughts which those feelings suggest are floated promiscuously along the stream.

J. S. Mill, “The Two Kinds of Poetry,” Essays on Poetry (U. of South Carolina Press, 1976), edited by F. Parvin Sharpless


midden of broken things

A fragment gathers with others of its kind.


words as medium

Not so much a poet as a text artist.


hard back

Reader, be a breaker of books.


prison argot

The critics of that school feared they’d invented a prison argot.


reading series guideline

The organizer of the reading series posted on his website one guideline under the heading “Requirement to be a scheduled Reader”: 1. Do you attend these readings? If ‘No’, go away. If ‘Yes', tell me about yourself and what you’ve been writing.


sentences comment

34. When an artist learns his craft too well he makes slick art.

35. These sentences comment on art, but are not art.

—Sol Lewitt, Sentences on Conceptual Art"

[First published in 0-9 (New York), 1969, and Art-Language (England), May 1969]


resist the list

Don’t allow your reading list to be dictated: Hunt it, find it, make it your own.


acrostic composed



situational awareness

A poet recognizes immediately the ‘con’ in lexicon.


beauty blinded

This light, this landscape (Poros, Greece), these days start to threaten me seriously. I close the shutters so I can work. I must protect myself from beauty...You feel your brain emptying and lightening; the long day absorbs it. Today I understood why Homer was blind; if he had had eyes he wouldn't have written anything.

—George Seferis, A Poet’s Journal: Days of 1945-1951 (The Belknap Press, Harvard U. Press, 1974), translated by Athan Anagnostopoulos.


figure of speech fugue

A poem that throbs with its tropes.


poem as bookcase

Loaded with literary allusions, each line of the poem was like a bookshelf.


playing long odds

He was prone to playing the long odds, so he quit his job, borrowed $50K and bet on getting an MFA in Creative Writing.


audience disconnect

After the poet concluded the reading with her most harrowing of poems, the audience smiled and clapped heartily as though to prompt an encore.


false dualities

Beware nevertheless of false dualities: classical and romantic, real and ideal, reason and instinct, mind and matter, male and female—all should be merged into each other (as a Taoists merged their Yin and Yang in the Tao) and should be regarded as two aspects of one idea. […]

Yet ridiculous as may seem the dualities in conflict at a given time, it does not follow that dualism is a worthless process. The river of truth is always splitting up into arms that reunite. Islanded between them, the inhabitants argue for a lifetime as to which is the mainstream.

—Cyril Connolly, The Unquiet Grave: A Word Cycle by Palinurus (Persea Press, 1981; first published in Curwen Press in 1944)


mind pain

As when reading an article on the latest subatomic theory, a good poem should hurt your brain.


quiet but not empty space

Poet, strain the words from silence.


book as handheld device

Your poetry being printed only makes it more portable, not more important.


just passing through

We call them passages because we are unlikely to pass our eyes over them again.


brokedown horses

A bright critic who hitched his wagon (note: dead metaphor) to the wrong authors.


intrinsic solitude

Stranded on this distant land where spaceships don’t pass nor ever will, lost on this speck of sand far from all commercial routes of the universe, I’m condemned to share the intrinsic solitude of its inhabitants, people incapable of communicating with a tool less unwieldy and impenetrable than language. I use it to send coded messages that only other castaways, those they call poets, can understand.

—Ana Maria Shua, translated by Rhonda Dahl Buchanan, Short Circuits: Aphorisms, Fragments, and Literary Anomalies (Schaffner Press, 2018), edited by James Lough and Alex Stein.


what happens underground

Model for a poem: rabbit warren.


big data

The day may be coming when canonicity is measured by tallying Google searches.


poem event

Had the ability to make the reading of a poem an event.


take it from the top

With I-beam lines…the poet was building a skyscraper from the sky down.


loving and severe spirit

Among the many senses that modern painters have lost, we must number the sense of architecture. The edifice accompanying the human figure, whether alone or in a group, whether in a scene from life or in an historical drama, was a great concern of the ancients. They applied themselves to it with loving and severe spirit, studying and perfecting the laws of perspective. A landscape enclosed in the arch of a portico or in the square or rectangle of a window acquires a greater metaphysical value, because it is solidified and isolated from the surrounding space. Architecture completes nature. It marks an advance of human intellect in the field of metaphysical discoveries.

—Giorgio De Chirico, “The Sense of Architecture,” Artists on Art (Pantheon Books, 1945)


good listening

Summer evening, lying back on the grass, listening to poetry.

[Listening to Tracy K. Smith at the Sunken Garden Poetry Festival]


afraid of having said

You have a right to write about nothing, as I have a right to skip reading what you’ve written.


smell test

The anthology smelled of solicited work.


poems that move people

One’s occasional poems garner the sincerest praise.


standards set

The standards you hold yourself to are too high to write anything. Your standards to write anything are too low.


rescued from formlessness

The poet’s relationship to her poetry has, it seems to me—and I am not speaking only of Emily Dickinson—a twofold nature. Poetic language—the poem on paper—is a concretization of the poetry of the world at large, the self, and the forces within the self; and those forces are rescued from formlessness, clarified, and integrated in the act of writing poems. But there is a more ancient concept of the poet, which is that she is endowed to speak for those who do not have the gift of language, or to see for those who—for whatever reasons—are less conscious of what they are living through. It is as though the risks of the poet’s existence can be put to some use beyond her own survival.

—Adrienne Rich, “Vesuvius at Home: The Power of Emily Dickinson,” By Herself: Women Reclaim Poetry (Graywolf, 2000), edited by Molly McQuade.


turn of phrase

On the back of April 2017 issue of Poetry, as advert/blurb, there were two lines by Rae Armantrout…   
             Where there’s smoke
             there are mirrors.
An often employed trope of hers, it seemed. Take a common expression and give it a twist...make a wry turn on a well-worn phrase. (Charles Bernstein has done the same.) Often Armantrout makes a poem of a succession of this device. However, when I read the poems inside the issue, I was glad to see she didn’t overuse the device.


declaration not an answer

A manifesto arises, it is not solicited.

[A manifesto lives on impulse. It is not as slow to develop as a project.]