substitution of terms

Mathematics may be defined as the subject in which we never know what we are talking about, nor whether what we are saying is true.

—Bertrand Russell (1872-1969), Mysticism and Logic

Poetics may be defined as the subject in which we never know what we are talking about, nor whether what we are saying is true.


simple theater

I find great enjoyment at a poetry reading because it is the simplest form of theater: A poet, a lectern or sidetable to hold books or papers, enough light to read by, a bottle of water, and perhaps a microphone and amplifier if the acoustics of the space are poor or the voice of the particular poet doesn’t carry. The audience arrayed in several ranks of chairs (but seldom are more than 50 seats required). That’s it. No cast, costumes or props, no musical instruments, no projector or screen, no flashing or colored lights, just the human voice commanding the attention of a room full of people.


footnote to a poem

A footnote to a poem is either an affectation or it is the failure of a word or line to hold its own against time.


old tricks

Ah, the avant-garde, up to their old tricks again.


accident and argument

A poem is part welcome accident and part crafted argument.


disturbing intrusion of elements

“I have tried to present my sensations in what is the most congenial and impressive form possible to me. The technical obstacles of painting perhaps dictate the form. It derives also from the limitations of personality, and such may be the simplifications that I have attempted. I find in working always the disturbing intrusion of elements not a part of my most interested vision, and the inevitable obliteration and replacement of this vision by the work itself as it proceeds. The struggle to prevent this is, I think, the common lot of all painters to whom the invention of arbitrary forms has lesser interest. I believe that the great painters with their intellect as master have attempted to force this unwilling medium of paint and canvas into a record of their emotions. I find any digression from this large aim leads me to boredom.”

—Edward Hopper, “Notes on Painting,” 1933, MOMA exhibit catalogue


solved before one's eyes

Sometimes as one reads it is as though the words are still slotting themselves into place just as the eye reaches them. The poem as a puzzle being solved before one's eyes.



All form is procrustean. The paradox of form: what is de rigueur often leads to revelation.