How important was that image?: As though a kind of scrimshaw etched on human bone.


flarf = word barf

Flarf is word barf. A glorified writing exercise, as if the world needed another
reason or method to perpetrate bad poems. (It’s no coincidence that ‘flarfing’ arose at the same time the ‘paradelle', Billy Collins’ pet form, had its day.) Has anything of lasting interest ever been created by an artist absent a compelling subject or profound emotion? Silence should be a satisfying alternative to the poet who hasn’t any reason to write.


clarity, clarity

Clarity, clarity, surely clarity is the most beautiful
        thing in the world,
A limited, limiting clarity

I have not and never did have any motive of poetry
But to achieve clarity

—George Oppen, from “Route”


first love in translation

We fall hard for the first translations of a poet's work that we encounter; and most of the other/later translations we come across strike us as pale or somehow inferior.


simple lay

They may call it a simple lay, and yet the words won’t lie still.


arbitrary & capricious linebreak

A casual survey of contemporary poetry would lead one to believe that the decision of how/where to break the poetic line is either arbitrary or idiosyncratic. There is much workshop talk but little real theory or even practical guidelines to rely on when considering the linebreak. One could say that the linebreak is arbitrary and capricious as they put it in the law.


hate the approximate

He was a poet and hated the approximate.

—Rainer Maria Rilke, The Notebooks of Malte Laurids Brigge


wide and close up

A poet’s vision is always wide-angle yet with a high degree of acuity.


dictionary thumper

Poet, be a dictionary-thumping fundamentalist!


an anthology's function

An anthology is for finding a few representative poems by minor poets. Large collected and selected poems are the go-to source for the bigger names. Do you read Ginsberg or Creeley in an anthology? Perhaps just a quick check of the contents page to see which poems were chosen. But generally we skip the big names in favor of sampling those poets whose work is less familiar or less widely available.


a blurb is about

A blurb is about the blurb-writer and not about the book.


nobly disheveled

Any bright young man can be taught to be artful. It is impossible to teach taste, but you can teach most anybody caution. It is always the lesser artists who are artful, they must learn their trade by rote. They must be careful never to make false steps, never to speak out of a carefully synthesized character. The greatest poetry is nobly disheveled. At least it never shows the scars of taking care.

—Kenneth Rexroth, introduction to D.H. Lawrence: Selected Poems


roaring loom of time

I would steal Spinoza’s image of the “roaring loom of time’ and state that this is what a great poem eventually becomes.


barbarian poets

Going back to the Greek meaning of the word ‘barbarian’ (those who speak a language other than Greek), we can see that all poets are ‘barbarians’ because they speak a different language from the main tribe or polis. The difference can range from a matter of dialect or inflection to a speech that is radically different in terms of word sounds, meanings, syntax, and diction.


simultaneous tapestry

In a poem the lines strain to weave themselves into a simultaneous tapestry of experience.


unselfish act

Translation is the most unselfish act in literature, and must be so.



Whether you listen to a piece of music, or a poem, or look at a picture on a jug, or a piece of sculpture, what matters about it is not what it has in common with others of its kind, but what is singularly its own.

—Basil Bunting, The Codex


command economy

Poetry publishing is a decentralized command economy. Demand is not considered in production.



He wore a bandoleer filled with pencils and pens. Always ready for a good write.


prose mind

It’s not possible to read poetry with a prose mind.


pressured speech

The poem as pressured speech.