perpetually present

If the art of concentrating in a particular way is the discipline necessary for poetry to reveal itself, memory exercised in a particular way is the natural gift of poetic genius. The poet, above all else, is a person who never forgets certain sense-impressions which he has experienced and which he can re-live again and again as though with all their original freshness.
A memory once clearly stated ceases to be a memory, it becomes perpetually present, because every time we experience something which recalls it, the clear and lucid original experience imposes its formal beauty on the new experiences. It is thus no longer memory but an experience lived through again and again.

—Stephen Spender, The Making Of A Poem (W.W. Norton & Co., 1962)


napoleon of your lines

Poet, be a field marshal who will not let his lines be outflanked.


upper case, higher place

The poem’s title was a hieratic headline.


no advancing back

The avant-gardist tries to piece together a lineage/heritage; but one thinks that the forebears he has cited would deny any heirs just as they'd denied ancestors.


quick and dirty crit

His criticism was a slapdash midrash.


modest and secret complexity

The fate of a writer is strange. He begins his career by being a baroque writer, pompously baroque, and after many years, he might attain if the stars are favorable, not simplicity, which is nothing, but rather a modest and secret complexity.

—Jorge Luis Borges, “Prologue,” The Self and The Other (1964)


catch the prevailing wind

His poems are raised sails that never fail to catch the Zeitgeist. [Thinking of Billy Collins.]



alien arts allied

The best poems make use of the arts of bricklaying and flower arrangement.


money of fools

For words are wise men's counters, they do but reckon with them; but they are the money of fools.

—Thomas Hobbes, Leviathan


just that one

The canon proves that one’s renown can be made by one poem.


nothing new here

He put down his pen and folded his hands because he wasn’t bringing anything ‘new to the tablet’.


if need be

Craft is art inflected by function.


voice overlord

They called her ‘confessional’ in order to silence her. [Thinking of Plath.]


no work of art at all

I was constantly watching the work of my father and mother, and the other professional painters who frequented their home, and constantly trying to imitate them; so that I learnt to think of a picture not as a finished product exposed for the admiration of virtuosi, but as the visible record, lying about the house, of an attempt to solve a definite problem in painting, so far as the attempt has gone. I learnt what some critics and aestheticians never know to the end of their lives, that no ‘work of art’ is ever finished, so that in that sense of the phrase there is no ‘work of art’ at all. Work ceases upon the picture or manuscript not because it is finished, but because sending-in day is at hand, or because the printer is clamorous for copy.

—R.G. Collingwood, The Principles of Art (Oxford Univ. Press, 1958)


magic in creation

Revision is difficult because all the magic is there in the first draft.


making do

Translation is as necessary as it is impossible.


not much there

For good or for bad, poets keep proving you can write a poem about almost nothing at all.


in situ

Poems come from place.


imperfect paradise

"The imperfect is our paradise."

—Wallace Stevens, "The Poems of Our Climate"

Joan Richardson delivered an excellent talk last night for 15th Annual Wallace Stevens Birthday Bash entitled "Wallace Stevens' Radiant and Productive Atmosphere." A tracing of how the poet came to translate faith into his "supreme fiction.

The talk was based on an essay in Richardson's A Natural History of Pragmatism: The Fact of Feeling from Jonathan Edwards to Gertrude Stein.


akin to poetry

Philosophy is akin to poetry, and both of them seek to express that ultimate good sense which we term civilization. In each there is reference to form beyond the direct meanings of words. Poetry allies itself to metre, philosophy to mathematic pattern.

—Alfred North Whitehead, Modes of Thought (Macmillan, 1938)


perfect to a point

A kind of craft that respects the means of imperfection.


relative scale

Each poet but a small part of the art.


known quantity

“You have a gift for irony,” I said to the young poet; then added, “I know whereof I speak.”