Another minor poet with major poet attitude.


ancient artifact

A typewritten poem had arrived by mail and the editors and staff passed it around the office asking if anyone knew what it was.


critical difference

Opinion expires in time. Analysis lasts.


buckle up

A first line that clicked like a race driver’s seat belt.


respectful attention

Poets and artists ‘let things be’, but they also let things come out and show themselves. They help to ease things into ‘unconcealment’ (Unverborgenheit), which is Heidegger’s rendition of the Greek term alētheia, usually translated as ‘truth’. This is a deeper kind of truth than mere correspondence of a statement to reality, as when we say ‘The cat is on the mat’ and point to a mat with a cat on it. Long before we can do this, both cat and mat must ‘stand forth out of concealedness’. They must un-hide themselves.

Enabling things to un-hide themselves is what human do: it is our distinctive contribution. We are a ‘clearing’, a Lichtung, a sort of open, bright forest glade into which beings can shyly steep forward like a deer from the trees…It would be simplistic to identify the clearing with human consciousness, but this is more or less the idea. We help things to emerge into the light by being conscious of them, and we are conscious of them poetically, which means that we pay respectful attention and allow them to show themselves as they are, rather than bending them to our will.

—Sarah Bakewell, At the Existentialist Café (Other Press, 2016)


uses of language

A poet who allowed language to signify. A poet who asked language to sign in blood.


made statement

Even the shape of the poem had some swagger.


gaseous body

If this long poem was an astronomical body, it would be classified as a ‘gas giant’.


word of his own

The critic Maurice speaks of the pompatus of poetry.

[Steve Miller’s word]


no more than opinion

Yet poetry is still thought of, insistently, as a product, as something answering either to a determined definition or else to a use not necessarily its own. Gregory Corso rightly said that only the poet can validate him- or herself. There is no other reference or judgment that can give more than an opinion. Opinions are rightly and generously the response an art may depend upon, but they do not determine what it is or can be.

—Robert Creeley, “Reflections on Whitman in Age,” On Earth: Last poems and an essay (U. of California Press, 2006)


matter of

A poem of deceptive mass.


tight spot

Photographs are often cropped for better effect, and likewise poems too should be willing to give up some background in favor of compositional impact.


must be put down

Sometimes the critic must shoot the audience.


flaws of the first water

The poem’s flaws would have been features in lesser poems.


inner travel

Outer travel becomes the setting of inner travel, but if the mood is somewhat that of the Odyssey, the travelers are less able and confident than Odysseus, and the world less viable to purpose. The width of things and the isolation of the characters look forward to much in the Hellenistic Age, and even in the Aeneid, rather than back to the sureness of the Odyssey. Of the classical Greek writers, Euripides notably created a language for privacy of experience, and he paradoxically did so by pressing intellectually farther than other poets and finding no solution in it.

—John H. Finlay, Jr., “The Theoretical Mind,” Four Stages of Greek Thought (Stanford U. Press, 1966)


hearing loss

Having attended too many slams, he was now deaf to the more nuanced forms of poetry.


implicit question mark

Let the last line swerve a little.


counted and found wanting

The Instagram poet with a massive albeit abased audience.


vital organ

A good poem while entering the body via the brain, will lodge itself under the sternum, close by vital organs, the heart and the lungs.


room with a view

Nature poetry that seemed to have been written by someone staring out a window.


ship rebuilt while at sea

We are like sailors who on the open sea must reconstruct their ship but are never able to start afresh from the bottom. Where a beam is taken away a new one must at once be put there, and for this the rest of the ship is used as support. In this way, by using the old beams and driftwood the ship can be shaped entirely anew, but only by gradual reconstruction.

Otto Neurath, Empiricism and Sociology, ed. Marie Neurath and Robert S. Cohen (Dordrecht: Reidel, 1973).

Poets are like sailors who on the open sea must reconstruct their ship but are never able to start afresh from the bottom. Where a beam is taken away a new one must at once be put there, and for this the rest of the ship is used as support. In this way, by using the old beams and driftwood the ship can be shaped entirely anew, but only by gradual reconstruction.


forward speaking

One hopes a book becomes a tongue that won’t be still.


craft spirit

Perhaps we need less of the creative spirit and more of the attention to craft.


upon this rock

With this word I found the whole poem.


preferred to proffer his own

It became apparent that when he’d said that he loved poetry, he meant his own.


it's time

   Hegel said that art was a thing of the past. It pleases me to say: to the contrary, poetry is a question for the future, so much so that the future itself belongs to poetry, is poetry. Without poetry there will be no future. The time that would see poetry die will itself be just another death.

   Poetry does not have a time: it is time.

Adonis, "A Language That Exiles Me,"(boundary 2 / Spring 1999), translated by Pierre Joris


what is was

What it was as art, was not immediately evident.


denatured poetry

The critic advocated for a denatured poetry wherein any emotional response had been stripped from the words.


clean copy

The editor delivered the bad news: The proofreader had no questions about the text.


taking umbrage

Except for the first, each line of the poem struggles to get out from under the shadow of the prior line. (The first line vies with the title to be recognized and heard.)


internal space

The meditation was so unremittingly blah, I suggested the poet might need to hire an ‘interiority decorator’.


required rebel

Slavishly we imitate; and slavishly, rebel.

—Mignon McLaughlin, Aperçus: Aphorisms of Mignon McLaughlin (Brabant Press), introduction by Josh Michaels.


not response but responsibility

People who accuse poets of obscurity never seem to question the reader’s responsibility in the transaction.


words for the taking

Artists need materials. Musicians need instruments. Poet, please don’t complain when words are all about you, free for the taking.


pixel count

If the lyric poem is a pinhole camera exposing single images from a life, the biography is a large format pixelated picture, but no matter the page count, a biography is always a life over-simplified.


continuous experience

Reading the long poem on his e-reader he had the suspicion that someone somewhere was still typing the lines, trying to stay a page or two ahead his eyes.


when it all fits

Strange—we are always inhabiting more than one realm of existence—but they all fit in if the art is right.

—Lorine Niedecker, in a letter to Cid Corman, quoted in Radical Vernacular: Lorine Niedecker and the Poetics of Place edited by Elizabeth Willis.


original small batch producer

Poetry was way ahead of the craft and artisanal movement.


balance of interests

An image you’ve never experienced versus a well-worn image made new.


long run

Initially a small print run, but never out of print since.


real time

Revision may be retrospective, but composition is always done in real time.


empire poetry

Poetry, I’m afraid, is the apotheosis of lingual colonialism, as it colonizes all forms of literary output. No language poses impediment and whether elevated or common or neutral speech, it takes and remakes without pity or regret.


material failure

There are things we believe or think we believe or want to believe which will not substantiate themselves in the concrete material of the poem.

—George Oppen, letter to John Taggart, The Selected Letters of George Oppen (Duke U. Press, 1990), edited by Rachel Blau DuPlessis


pickpockets practice magic tricks too

The publisher tries to explain away his prize-winning author’s plagiarisms as instances of careless ‘intertextuality’.


major rhetoric

The dream of a great poem made solely from superior rhetoric.


not sic transit it sticks

An image must do one thing: it must remain in the reader’s mind.


too close

If you hew to another’s style, you risk parody when you meant homage.


the good fight

The announcement flyer for “Poetry of Resistance” pictured an older poet, sitting in a comfortable chair, bookcases behind him, his dog at his knee: “To the barricades!”


no system

Nietzsche is the one modern philosopher whom the layman has a fair chance of understanding. Perhaps that makes him not a philosopher. Perhaps it makes him a poet. (A non sequitur.) Or is there a connection in this sphere between being understandable and being insane?

Commenting on the unresolved contradictions in Nietzsche’s writing, H.G. Schenk describes what he has left us as ‘the intellectual echo of the recurrent oscillations of his soul, observed with utmost sensitivity’. In introducing Human, All Too Human in R.J. Hollingdale’s translation, Erich Heller remarks that even the most impressive philosophical systems is perched uncomfortably on a throne of rock-bottom stupidity, the self-induced narrow-mindedness which leads man to believe that he, a small part of an immense world, is capable of making absolutely coherent sense of it all. Heller is championing aphorisms, which, through their brevity, achieve ‘a kind’ of finality, one which we know, the world being so immense, isn’t more than a kind of. One effect of eluding narrow-mindedness and resisting schematization, something more commonly observed in poets…

—D. J. Enright, Interplay: a kind of commonplace book (Oxford Univ. Press, 1995)


scribble scrabble

When he wasn’t scribbling, he was scrabbling. Part of the scribble-scrabble rabble.


larger than life

The image may be of something small or minor, but becomes monumental by the unique perspective of the seeing.


getting ahead of myself

Another one of those self-anointed avant-garde.


end stop line

Elegy for the formalist: He gave us his last full measure.


between two poles

Poetry pulled by the aesthetic poles of speech and song.


all art

Little by little, pictures encumbered all the rooms, till only a room or two was left for the purposes of the man who required to eat, sleep, entertain his friends. Little by little the hours in which he was still the man whom he was so well, became rarer. His house was already almost a museum, his flesh and blood little more than the place where a work of art was being accomplished.

—Marcel Proust “Gustave Moreau,” Marcel Proust on Art and Literature, 1896-1919 (Dell Publishing Co., 1964), translated by Sylvia Townsend Warner.


services rendered pro bono

I’m afraid most poets do most of their professional work 'pro bono'.


not timebound

A poem that even time cannot tame.


answered in advance

The question posed in the poem was clearly a coy set-up for an answer the poet already possessed.


a few more questions to ask

Not so much an interview as it was a debriefing of the poet after she’d published her latest book.


blind curve

Though dangerous when driving, a blind curve is sought after when writing/reading a line of verse.