brute poets

The brusque, blunt and brutally honest poetry of an Alan Dugan or a William Bronk.


voluptuary of one's vocabulary

A poet living large in the voluptuary of his vocabulary.


discrete element

In poetry the sentence and sentence fragment coexist harmoniously. The latter being like a sentence in that it’s often bounded by a starting capital letter and the endpoint period, however it’s not meant to function as a grammatical unit; rather the sentence fragment serves as a discrete element of thought, speech, image or breath.


compelling content

A style lacking in character only compelling content can give.


utilitarian artist

To a certain extent, the artist can be considered the most utilitarian of persons, for he uses even unusable things, he is the one who uses insignificant perceptions and arbitrary acts to invent, outside of a practical interest, a background interest, a secondary necessity. The unique quality of artistic invention is to lend these useless impressions such a value that not only do they become as indispensable as any direct perception, but as they are given to us we feel even more the need to find them again and to enjoy them. This is what Paul Valéry calls the “aesthetic infinite.”

—Maurice Blanchot, “Poetics,” Faux Pas, translated by Charlotte Mandell, Stanford Univ. Press, 2001


brain tattoo

The image was a brain tattoo.


free associative reading

If literary magazines didn’t make payment with copies, who'd ever read them?


end of the line

The end of each line or verse (the turning) allows for a resonance to fill the brief pause and also opens the line up to a moment’s reflection.


emotion inflected

The poem’s impetus is emotion. But all the better when inflected by intellect.


set upon the word herd

The wolves of revision set upon that vast migration of words, to cut out the weak and infirm.


first stumbling efforts

So the enthusiastic praise often lavished on works employing innovatory techniques, new stylistic tricks, novelties of form or medium is misplaced unless these bring, or have the potential to bring, some new aesthetic character of value. In this respect those who inveigh against the cult of the original are right; but equally, those are wrong who decry any extreme stylistic or technical innovation before assessing what is being done with it or what might be, what new worlds of aesthetic experience are opened up. Who could have foreseen the glories to be achieved, faced with the first stumbling efforts in sonnet form or the first essays in pictorial perspective?

—Frank Sibley, “Originality and Value”


condition of Muzak

After Post-Modernism: All Art aspired to a condition of Muzak.


force over nuance

The political poem sacrifices nuance for emotional force.


grail poem

Sometimes he thought he could almost see the faint outlines of that grail poem.


pressure of the contemporaneous

Two nights ago, The Friends & Enemies of Wallace Stevens with the Hartford Public Library had James Longenbach as our guest speaker. His talk was entitled "An Examination of Wallace Stevens in a Time of War." Generally, Longenbach's thesis was that Stevens did care about what was happening around him in the world, and that he used his poetry not as evasion but as way to inflect and to change those impinging circumstances of existence. Longenbach, using the example of the composition of one his own poems, told about how a box of paperclips had been one of the poem's triggering elements. However, Longenbach choose not to make that specific thing an image in the poem. The imagination would not be pinned to that particular reality.

A key quote in the talk was this one from Opus Posthumous:

"The pressure of the contemporaneous from the time of the beginning of the World War to the present time has been constant and extreme. No one can have lived apart in a happy oblivion."

Stevens goes on to state:

"In poetry, to that extent, the subject is not the contemporaneous, because that is only the nominal subject, but the poetry of the contemporaneous. Resistance to the pressure of ominous and destructive circumstance consists of its conversion, so far as possible, into a different, an explicable, an amenable circumstance."


large garden

The poem is a garden planted too large to ever be perfectly kempt.


prototype and finished product

Each poem, once finished, is both prototype and finished product.


trope dope

It's easy for poets to get hooked on that trope dope.


expectation and vulnerability

Imagination is only the expectation of or a vulnerability to the poems all around us.


self-enclosed, self-limiting

A poem presents material so that it becomes a universe in itself…There is something self-enclosed and self-limiting in a poem, and this self-sufficiency is the reason, as well as the harmony and rhythm of sounds, why poetry is, next to music, the most hypnotic of the arts.

—John Dewey, "The Varied Substance Of The Arts," Art As Experience(Perigee/Penguin Putnam Books, 1980)



Each line is a stratum. As you read down through the poem, the weight of the lines above you can be felt.