Only the language that is integral.


sharp or faint footprint

For what it may be worth, in my own experience, a poem appears as a kind of footprint—as sharp as the one Crusoe saw or as faint as a ghost fossil in stone—but always solitary and iconic: an image, a phrase or a rhyme that is like a bit of music seeking words.

—Thomas McGrath, "Notes, Personal and Theoretical on 'Free' and 'Traditional' Form," Poetry East, #20-21, 1986


distance between language and experience

A poem matters most in that moment when it closes or collapses the distance between language and experience.


sleep is work

For a poet even sleep is work.


stolen or by chance

If what I do prove well, it won't advance.
They'll say it's stolen, or else it was by chance.

—Anne Bradstreet, The Prologue


poem you should never have started

The poem you should never have started is the only poem you must finish.


to ruthlessly insinuate time

Time is the text’s only enemy. The text must ruthlessly insinuate the thoughtless continuum that is time.


first failed translation

The poem in its original language is the first failed "translation" (of the poet's motive or vision for it).


not everything is poetry

In every piece of music, not everything is music, and in every poem not everything is poetry.

—Joseph Joubert, Notebooks (translated by Paul Auster)


language alchemy

In the alchemy of language that is poem-making, gold is the elusive element. So, in that pseudo-science of trial and error, we must trust the errors.


to define is to defend

One’s definition of poetry is one’s defense of poetry.


6 lines

Certain critics (Wm. Logan comes to mind) operate using the “Richelieu Principle”…they’ll readily hang a poet on as few as six lines:

"Qu'on me donne six lignes Ă©crites de la main du plus honnĂȘte homme, j'y trouverai de quoi le faire pendre."

"If one would give me six lines written by the hand of the most honest man, I would find something in them to have him hanged."

—Cardinal et Duc de Richelieu (1585–1642) French clergyman, noble, and statesman


illusion of a higher reality

The primary problem of any art is to cause by appearance the illusion of a higher reality.

—Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, "Truth and Poetry"


durable goods

Books are my durable goods. And my favorite major appliance: a bookcase.