4.30.2009

to incite a caring

One can say anything to language. This is why it is a listener, closer to us than any silence or any god. Yet its very openness often signifies indifference. (The indifference of language is continually solicited and employed in bulletins, legal records, communiqu├ęs, files.) Poetry addresses language in such a way as to close this indifference and to incite a caring.

—John Berger, “The Hour of Poetry,” Selected Essays (Vintage, 2001)

4.29.2009

far too puny

Language was far too puny for his great theology:
But, oh! His thought strode through those words
Bright as the conquering Christ…

—Thomas Merton, from “Duns Scotus,” The Collected Poems of Thomas Merton (New Directions, 1980)

4.28.2009

creative writing

The creative writing professor crafted lovely glowing introductions for the famous visiting writers.

4.27.2009

sweet spiel

Poet, be a salesperson with a sweet spiel and a hard close.

4.26.2009

jailbreak

Ruled notebook: Frustrated, I turn it on its side and begin to write. The words hanging on the bars of the cage, biding their time for a jailbreak.

4.23.2009

what books are made of

Sunt bona, sunt quaedam mediocria, sunt plura mala, quae legis hic: aliter non fit, Avite, liber.

Here you'll read some good things, some so-so, and a number of bad. There’s not another way, Avitus, to make a book.

—Martial, Epigrammata, XV, 16

4.21.2009

singing in between

In the lyric even the interstices sing.

4.19.2009

one look

A poet gazes the world in the glance of a single line.

4.16.2009

low-yield process

The refining into language of what was raw imagination.

4.15.2009

craftwork

What some call craft I’d call a taking care.

4.14.2009

poet game

I watched my country turn into
a coast-to-coast strip mall
and I cried out in a song:
if we could do all that in thirty years,
then please tell me you all -
why does good change take so long?
Why does the color of your skin
or who you choose to love
still lead to such anger and pain?
And why do I think it's any help
for me to still dream of
playing the poet game?

—Greg Brown, "The Poet Game" (Red House Records, 1994)

4.11.2009

everyone's doing it

Everyone reads fiction but everyone writes poetry.

4.09.2009

unruly

The lyric obeys no rules: emotions unleashing the language from the laws of usage and semantic convention.

4.08.2009

fragile lines

As though written on tissue paper the poem felt as if it could come apart at any moment.

4.07.2009

usual suspect

The poet had opportunity and motif.

4.06.2009

strange terms

Chiefly because our pauper-speech must find
Strange terms to fit the strangeness of the thing;
Yet worth of thine and the expected joy
Of thy sweet friendship do persuade me on
To bear all toil and wake the clear nights through,
Seeking with what of words and what of song
I may at last most gloriously uncloud
For thee the light beyond, wherewith to view
The core of being at the centre hid.

—Titus Lucretius Carus, “Of The Nature Of Things”
(translation by Wm. Ellery Leonard)

4.05.2009

language algebra

The line was language algebra: a formula devoid of the phenomenal.

4.04.2009

skin deep

A test for a line of poetry: Could you live with these words as a tattoo?

4.02.2009

organizing principle

A word array that must ultimately well up as speech.