genre renegade

I’ve never accepted that Joyce’s works are classed prose and not poetry.


soft start

The beginning was too benign.


under grandeur, grandeur under

The business of the poet and novelist is to show the sorriness underlying the grandest things, and the grandeur underlying the sorriest things.

—Thomas Hardy, from 1885 notebook; quoted The Life of Thomas Hardy, p. 171


little done well

Most poems fail because they accomplish very well so little.


the time it took

He said he’d written the poem only today, which was true, as much as it was true that the poem had been composed over the better part of his life.


wordly love

A poet too much in love with her vocabulary.


members only

A poet who desperately wanted to join club Avant-Garde.


priceless poetry

Poetry stands in resistance to this commercial culture. It is not about acquiring material wealth; instead, it’s about human insight, genuine human connectivity, and promotes mindfulness and awakening. In that way, poetry is priceless.

—Arthur Sze, Tricycle: The Buddhist Review, Interview with Arthur Sze by Kenji C. Liu, Jan 26, 2020.


wait it out

He’d become much more willing to wait for a poem to come.


you say tomato

Any two people can scan the same line and disagree on the stresses.


red zone

When writing the last 20 lines of a poem, the poet is in the red zone.

[On Super Bowl LIV Sunday]


solo act

The poetry reading turned into a one-person play.


waist deep and weilding

The intrepid poet wades into language without fear.


music before content

A poet's attunement to the activity of his speech organs can trigger corresponding aural (phonic) 'ideas', in which case a poem's sound structure is tied to the poet's phonic imagination, and the sequence of speech organ movements or sequence of phonic imaginings marks the inception of poetic thinking. That's what poets mean when they say that poetry begins with sound. Schiller, for instance, would often hear "a poem's music in [his] soul first, before having a clear idea of its content" (cited in Ernest Dupré and Marcel Nathan, le langage musical: Étude medico-psychologique, 1911)

—L. P. Yakubinsky, On Language and Poetry (Upper West Side Philosophers, 2018), trans. by Michael Eskin.


mind made

Imagination is not experience. Imagination is experience manqué.


six shooter

The dread of recognizing the sestina form on a page.


where to begin

Knowing there was so much of the poet to read, I found it hard to start.


poem without bounds

To write an inexhaustible poem.


woven design

A poem as intricately patterned as an oriental rug.


wrong blocks

After Harry Thurston Peck, editor of The Bookman, had reviewed Robinson's first collection, finding the author's "humor is of a grim sort, and the world is not beautiful to him, but a prison house."

[Robinson responded in the letter to Peck.] "I'm sorry to learn that I have painted myself in such lugubrious colors..." [Going on to say:]

“The world is not a prison house, but a kind of spiritual kindergarten where millions of of bewildered infants are trying to spell God with the wrong blocks.”

―Edwin Arlington Robinson, quoted in Edward Arlington Robinson: A Poet's Life, by Scott Donaldson.


three too many

Is there an example of a tripartite metaphor?


audience held

One feels most like a poet in that bardic moment speaking before enrapt faces.


library of the mind

He closed his eyes and saw in his mind where all his books were, those shelved and those stacked on their sides. When he opened his eyes, he couldn’t find the one title he was looking for.


lit is

To write a singular document.


drives on

The truck-driver poet looked at each exit ramp as a possible ending before he speeded past.


wind flow

[Episodes of Eccentrics Among Haikai Poets, 1816, compiled by Takenouchi Gengen’ichi] begins its description of Sutejo this way:

    […] From a very young age, she showed signs of a poetic turn of mind. In the winter of her sixth year, she made:

       Yuki no asa ni no ji ni no ji no geta no ata
       Morning snow: figure two figure two wooden clogs marks

    Because of this, one year she received a poem from someone exalted:

       Kayahara no oshi ya suti oku tsuyu no tama
       Too good to be left in a weedy field: this drop of dew.

The original word for what’s given as “a poetic turn of mind” is fūryū, literally “wind flow”—an expression that can’t be translated to anyone’s satisfaction. It refers to a liking for things somewhat unworldly or transcendental or the object of that inclination, such as poetry. Among its synonyms is fūga, which carries a greater dose of “elegance” or “refinement.” Another synonym, fūkyō, suggests “poetic dementia.” Any haikai person must be imbued with fūryū, fūga, or fūkyō.

—Hiroaki Sato, On Haiku (New Directions, 2018)


one among many

Each of us playing a small part in the poetry’s panoply.


dog-ear bookmark

The dog-eared page could mark an important passage, a run of words to return to, or it could mean a stopping place, when then where the book was closed, set aside and never opened again.


with all they have

The worst of the formalist poets are most vehemently opposed to free verse.


dark passage

You knew going in, this was a poem you’d be lucky to elucidate.


let there be dancing

When writing finally returned to Greece, in the eighth century B.C., the new Greek writing, its users, and its uses were very different. The writing was no longer an ambiguous syllabary mixed with logograms but an alphabet borrowed from the Phoenician consonantal alphabet and improved by the Greek invention of vowels. In place of lists of sheep, legible only to scribes and read only in palaces, Greek alphabetic writing from the moment of its appearance was a vehicle of poetry and humor, to be read in private homes. For instance, the first preserved example of Greek alphabetic writing, scratched onto an Athenian wine jug of about 740 B.C., is a line of poetry announcing a dancing contest: “Whoever of all dancers performs most nimbly will win this vase as a prize.”

—Jared Diamond, Guns, Germs, and Steel (W. W. Norton & Co., 1999)


book of spells

The fortune-teller poet thought you wouldn’t notice that her book of spells was a battered unabridged dictionary.


easy target

Like a parodist, the plagiarist should aim higher.


long view

Literature is one long poem.