of snakes and flowers

Only a bad poet hides a snake motif under a flowery style…

—Vladimír Holan, "In the Dance Hall"


resist, though they insist

Sometimes a poet must resist the insistence of words.


prose v. poetry

Why is that prose writers don’t seem to dither over the ways prose differs from poetry?


bleed through

As I was reading I could feel the lines bleeding through into memory.


uncovering oppressions

[Poetry] is the last possible domain in which we could preserve by language what we commonly deem to be reliable cognitive commonplaces, and last to appeal to solid, everyday perceptions. Poetry does not seek to negate these props. But it uncovers the oppressions of naïve experience and the stale pool of confirming constancies. (49)

—Justus Buchler, The Main of Light (Oxford Univ. Press, 1974)


nice coasters

Poetry books are not those large format, heavily illustrated coffee-table books. However, these slim volumes do make for nice coasters on the coffee table.


nuance, not new instance

To find the nuance in an emotion/notion, rather than a new instance of artifice. Too often the avant-garde is interested in the latter. Their magazines are full of language gadgetry, like the latest Sharper Image catalog, they have bought into the capitalist fetish for the new thing-a-ma-jig or the slick design of an otherwise common device.


image of note

From Frost's "Birches"...
                  once they are bowed
So low for long, they never right themselves:
You may see their trunks arching in the woods
Years afterwards, trailing their leaves on the ground
Like girls on hands and knees that throw their hair
Before them over their heads to dry in the sun.

I've always loved this strange yet apt simile. The length or extension of what follows the 'like' is what makes it work.


everything always singing

Some people are afflicted by tinnitus, an annoying ringing constantly in the ears. For the poet everything is singing. She constantly hears a singing wherever she goes in the world.


mind's midden

The fragments and discards left in my old notebook: the mind’s midden.


salvage operation

I could salvage only a few words and phrases from the wreckage of the poem.


no parthenon

it is not the Parthenon
but a Vuillard small
as an Adam’s apple
where pain mounts and falls

—Frank O’Hara, Stones, 1957-60, a collaboration of lithographs by Larry Rivers & Frank O’Hara


latent in everything

A poem is latent in everything. The humblest of acts or least of things will yield the most extravagant find.


metaphysics of language

Poetry is the metaphysics of language.


blasted into little pieces

Prior to The Great War (WWI), Ezra Pound and Wyndham Lewis put out their Vorticist magazine aggressively called BLAST. After the war they were publishing in The Little Review. The titles of the two publications are telling: Nothing like the reality of trench warfare to put one’s art into perspective.


pun of the day

After reading his florid poem, he asked, “Can this poem be fixed?” “No,” I said, “it’s too badly baroque.”


landscape into language

If I sit by a pond to write, my poem shimmers like the water’s surface. If I sit by the river and write, then its flow carries over into my language. When I write on the mountainside, I make a poem with a wide ambit.


galley slave

Degas on Manet:

Manet is in despair because he cannot paint atrocious paintings…and be fêted and decorated; he is an artist not by inclination but by force. He's a galley slave chained to the oar.

Quoted in The Paintings of Manet by Nathanial Harris (Mallard Press 1989)


solar plexus

A poem is the solar plexus of speech.


stepping stone

Each book a stepping stone to another.


destabilizing influence

Insert a word that will subtly destabilize the line and thus enliven it.


drawer of treasure or dream

As I read the poem it was as though I was slowly sliding open a drawer full of treasure or dream.


hit by a rock

You can do a lot with educated eyes. What I mean by “educated” is simply how pictures, among other things, can teach you about how to see, and what’s visible when you look hard enough or most openly. At a certain point, past the shock of seeing, you want to do something about it. That’s what makes an artist begin being an artist in the first place. At one time or another you get hit like with a rock. I have a theory that the course of anyone’s artistic life is determined largely by the attempt to retrieve that original rock, or what the painters used to call The Dream. [14]

—Bill Berskon, “Poetry and Painting,” Sudden Address (Cuneiform Press 2007)