lost in performance

Performance tends to enlarge the text to the point that all nuance and detail are lost due to scale.


effigy of alphabetic straw

To read materially is to make the word a crude effigy of alphabetic straw.


poet pirate

Poet, be a swashbuckler on the high seas of language!


of poets and philosophers

To the extent that poetry and philosophy are taken to be mutually exclusive, poetry is viewed as an activity purely of creating or inventing (poiesis, making), philosophy, as an activity purely of learning (mathesis) or seeing (theorein). Poets are taken to be produce, actively, what had not been at all, philosophers to apprehend, passively, what must always be. This is why philosophers have been taken, by some, to have access to the truth; they are supposed merely to take in what they view, not to alter it by viewing.

The opposition between making and learning—and, therefore, the mutual exclusion of poetry and philosophy—is a false one. As for making, no matter how creative the poet, the poem created is conditioned by the poet’s language and experience: the creation is not ex nihilo. It may be less apparent that the philosopher’s learning cannot be a matter of wholly passive receptivity…if it were, the receptivity would not go beyond mute apprehension. As soon as a philosopher begins to speak or to teach, the philosopher begins to make or produce: the philosopher becomes a poet. [p. 8]

I do not mean to suggest that no distinction between philosophy and poetry may or should be drawn; I do not mean to suggest that any distinction that would make a writer either a philosopher or a poet is misleading. The best writers, in my judgment—the most interesting, the most illuminating, the most informative, the most aesthetically pleasing—are philosophical poets or poetic philosophers. Nietzsche is among them. [p. 9]

Alan White, Within Nietzsche’s Labryrinth (Routledge, 1990)


no echo

A word fell off the end of my line, and vanished into a crevasse of white space. The word with which it had rimed called out to it, but no echo could be heard.



The personal and the local are always synecdoche for the universal.


the folds

He handed me his poem and I read it, but what could I say other than that the folds in the paper were the most beautiful and elegant elements of the page. The best lines, so to speak.



The slam poet apparently thought shouting was a poetic technique.


figurehead from dream

Poetry comes to me from an always latent dream. I like to direct this dream except on days of inspiration when I have the impression that it directs itself

I don’t like a dream which just drifts (I was going to say which just dreams). I try to make a substantial dream of it, a kind of ship’s figurehead which after crossing inner space and time confronts outside space and time—and for it the outside is the blank page

—Jules Supervielle, “Reflections on the Art of Poetry, 1951,” Selected Poems, edited by George Bogen


density is dynamism

Density of language necessarily adds dynamism to the poetry.


fear of heights

With no stanzas below, I felt a slight vertigo atop that tower of text.


petty criminals

The backroom of the bar was a haven for prostitutes and their pimps, con artists, addicts and dealers, poets and other petty criminals.


intellectual luxury good

When poetry is cut off from its social, cultural and political underpinnings, it becomes an intellectual luxury good.


Heidegger, Holderlin, Rilke

Since the publication of Being and Time, Heidegger has attempted, in certain tracts, to erect a kind of philosophy more myth-like than mystic, in which he enjoins us to a communion with the earth and the world, invoking to this end the thought of Hölderlin and Rilke.

—Jean Wahl, A Short History Of Existentialism (Philosophical Library, 1940)


running scared

The avant garde is always running scared, like the Israelites fleeing not through a parted Red Sea but the Mainstream about to close over them.


and yet undefined

Words organized for affect; often employing the effects of sound, imagery and metaphor through compressed expressions marked by their nuance or unusual perspective.


metaphor's category error

The metaphor flaunts its ‘category error’.


banish muse and daimon

Banish both the muse and daimon. Let inspiration arise solely from the real.


not the language of the age

The language of the age is never the language of poetry.

—Thomas Gray (1716-1771), in a letter to Richard West, 8 April 1742


elephant graveyard

The sonnet is poetry's elephant graveyard…the place where old poets go before they die.


more apes

They say if you have an infinite number of chimpanzees with keyboards, one of them will randomly type one of Shakespeare’s poems. For my next poem, it’s that good,
trust me, you’re gonna need a few more apes.


unfit line

Trust that the unfit line will benefit the poem. It's a loose wire that the reader must attend to.


sincerely a circle

If a poet can’t be sincere, neither can a critic. So nothing can be sincerely criticized if nothing can be sincerely said by the poet.


faithless poetry

Prose is in that measure a fine art. It might be called poetry that had become pervasively representative, and was absolutely faithful to its rational function.

—George Santayana, Reason in Art


bad marriage

The best metaphors are like those marriages that all the relatives said would never work out or last, but somehow did.


opens a fissure

A great line of poetry opens a fissure, allowing a little light from the numinous into this dim world.