avant-garde tradition

He was steeped in the avant-garde tradition.


pace and modulation

The most important tools of a reader are pace and modulation.


word bounty

My mind moved like a combine through those lines, harvesting a bounty of words.


spa patois

A poet luxuriates in obscure lexicons.


all we can be sure of

     The only danger is not going far enough…we are speaking here of the human spirit. If we go deep enough, we reach the common life, the shared experience of man, the world of possibility.
     If we do not go deep, if we live and write half-way, there are obscurity, vulgarity, the slang of fashion, and several kinds of death.
     All we can be sure of is that our art has life in time, it serves human meaning, it blazes on the night of the spirit; all we can be sure of is that at our most subjective we are universal; all we can be sure of is the profound flow of our living tides of meaning, the river meeting the sea in eternal relationship, in a dance of power, in a dance of love.

—Muriel Rukeyser, The Life of Poetry, Wm. Morrow & Co., 1974, pp. 201-202


falls off quickly from there

No middle ground: Poetry is either a quasi-religious experience or it is light verse.



A poet should aspire to a state of irrelevance. That’s where the art occurs.


to usurp the author

The attraction of critical theory: One can usurp the place of the author without having had to produce a primary text.


bad general

Like a bad general, the poet kept ordering wave upon wave of his lines against my mind’s redoubt.


a large undertaking

For the poet phrasemaking is tantamount to the tomb-making of the Pharaohs of Egypt.


boatload of quotes

When he was working on his study of German tragedy, he boasted a collection of “over 600 quotations very systematically and clearly arranged”; like the later notebooks, this collection was more than an accumulation of excerpts intended to facilitate the writing of the study but constituted the main work, with the writing as something secondary. The main work consisted in tearing fragments out of their context and arranging them afresh in such a way that they illustrated one another and were able to prove their raison d’ĂȘtre in a free-floating state, as it were. It definitely was a sort of surrealistic montage. Benjamin’s idea of producing a work consisting entirely of quotations, one that was mounted so masterfully that it could dispense with any accompanying text, may strike one as whimsical in the extreme and self-destructive to boot, but it was not, any more than were the contemporaneous surrealistic experiments which arose from similar impulses.

--Hannah Arendt, introduction to Walter Benjamin’s Illuminations: Essays and Reflections (Schocken Books, 1969)


Valentine's sentiment

To write a love poem is to live fully.


superimpose and infuse

The image is superimposed over its archetype. It’s the archetype that infuses an image with a numinous glow.


livin' large, po style

The poetry mogul drove up in his ten-year-old Volvo.


surreal issue

How many dream poems are the surreal issue of insomnia?


lump poems

Poems are lumps—physical entities. This does not mean, of course, that they are not about something—the complete dependence of all the paths, the threads, time-space, History, the Social. And the more unrestrainedly the poet gives himself up to the materiality, the more precisely these lumps give off the quality of his conscious effort, of his opinions and ideas. Which is far more interesting than the opinions and ideas themselves—only physical submission shows how long the succession is, demonstrates their real drama.

—Per Kirkeby, “Painterly Poetry,” Selected Essays from Bravura (Van Abbemuseum, 1982), tranlated by Peter Shield.



The perfect poem is as streamlined as the tongue.


straining to entertain

The poet thought that by being a clown the work would somehow show itself better. If the people laughed, if they bought books, if they went home happy, that was enough.


world poet

A poet whose work can’t be translated is a poet not worth translating. The work would have to be so idiomatic or idiosyncratic that it cannot convey the universally human aspects of what poetry is and which can always be carried over language to language. In other words, the poet is not a ‘world poet’ in any sense that would make the work worth translating.


poetic forms: sestina

Sestina: six words repeated till depletion.


tea leafs

Try as we might, some “impurities” will remain in the poem’s final draft; but they are like tea leafs at the bottom of the cup, recalling the flavor’s origin, and, could we read them, telling us our fortune.

—Alfred Corn, The Pith Helmet (Cummington Press, 1992)


spoken word

The poem was full-throated, and full-throttle.


arranged marriage

Sometimes one senses the rime was an arranged marriage. One feels forced relations between the words.