digging and sifting

Less creativity and more archaeology; that is, less imagination and more psychic excavation.


figure esquisse

If there’s no word for something, we can always use others to sketch its outline.


as in love

Don’t go for the fast word. Wait for the fated word.


human document

I most admire those writers who lived to write.

[Thinking of Jim Harrison.]



I am interested in the ways language can suggest or provoke (though never surround) an endlessness.

—Heather McHugh, Broken English: Poetry and Partiality (Wesleyan Univ. Press, 1993)


coruscating course

A long poem flecked with many lyrics.


character slide

A critic who began his career as a curmudgeon but in time became a crank.

[Thinking of Karl Shapiro.]


reflexive property

He said that poetry was difficult. Like life?, I said.


loss for words

This is a poem that should be quickly translated into a dying language.


in the end is the beginning

A gifted lyric poet who lacked only the ability to see that he was rewriting one poem.


comic turn

After modernism, formal poetry became a special case of light verse.


moving parts

Practical or sensitive form—that the artist feels relationships, i.e. weights, measures, durations, correspondences, gravities, propulsions, and cooperates to set them in motion. The physical universe has “laws” of motion and the artist is sensitive to them. Here language—as well as paint, tones struck from the string—is a “matter” of vibrations; and form has to do with the working in structures of moving parts.

—Robert Duncan, “Notes on Poetic Form,” The Poet’s Work: 29 Masters of 20th Century Poetry on the Origins and Practice of Their Work (Houghton Mifflin Co., 1979) edited by Reginald Gibbons


spinning wheel

This section of your poem is just buffering.


fast talkers

An interview is a casual shortcut to exposing (for the interviewer) and to espousing (for the interviewed poet) a method and a poetics.


universal accord

Criticism tries to steady the jangly localities of taste by striking a universal chord.


horsemen pass by

The barbarians didn’t ransack the library because they didn’t know what it was.

[I realized after posting this one that I'd perhaps lifted the notion from Karl Shapiro's essay "The Poetry Wreck."]


attempts to revisit

To revise one attempts to revisit the original psychic space of the piece’s composition.


overplatoed his hand

Plato, courageous almost beyond belief, secure in his own literary powers, nevertheless appears to discard his own defensive irony when he rejects Homer in the Republic. Scholars of philosophy are not very wary in regard to Plato’s blunder, because (at their best) philosophy is for them a way of life. But Plato sought to replace Homer as the culture of Greece, which was as likely as demoting Shakespeare for the English-speaking world, Goethe for the Germans, Tolstoy for the Russians, Montaigne and Descartes for the French. I would add Walt Whitman for the New World, except that we have not yet learned how to read him, except for a handful: Thoreau, Hart Crane, Borges, Pessoa, Neruda.

—Harold Bloom, “The Greeks: Plato’s Contest with Homer,” Where Shall Wisdom Be Found? (Riverhead Books, 2004)


long gone

I read the poem for a while, and then, my being unnecessary to its course, I just let it go on without me.



A poem locked in the prison of the canon.