the power under one's hand

At my desk I reach for a pen and realize that I’m at the console that controls the universe.


simple means

Because of its simple means (language), the educated poor are deeply attracted by poetry. The privileged impoverishment of being a poet in this world.


being alive to poetry

Just as our body needs to breathe, our soul requires the fulfillment and expansion of its existence in the reverberations of emotional life. Our feeling of life desires to resound in tone, word, and image.

—Wilhelm Dilthey, “The Imagination of the Poet,” translated by Louis Agosta and Rudolf A. Makkreel, Poetry and Experience (Princeton U. Press, 1985)


different standards

It was a poem manufactured to meet precise critical standards; thus it failed the test of art.



Reading the poem was like descending a switchback trail of lines, stopping now and again to take in the view.


debris reader

A poet is a vagrant reader, a debris reader: Cereal boxes, fortune cookies, instruction manuals, pill bottle labels, junk mail, coupons, ticket stubs. Any scrap of printed matter, no matter how inconsequential, may yield a revelation.


rime or responsibility.

A poem of no rime or responsibility.


make a raft

Wrecked and adrift on the high seas of language, lash the lines together and make a raft.


peripheral vision

Some poems come from visions; while other poems are caught out of the corner of one’s eye.


uneducated eye

The Artist is uneducated, is seeing IT for the first time; he can never see the same thing twice. - The Public and The Artist can meet at every point except the—for The Artist—vital one, that of the pure uneducated seeing. They like the same drinks, can fight in the same trenches, pretend to the same women—but never see the same thing ONCE. —Mina Loy, "The Artist And The Public," The Last Lunar Baedeker, edited by Roger L. Conover, The Jargon Society, 1982 (The first part of the above quote made me think of Monet and his iterations of haystacks, the Rouen Cathedral, poplars...)


it was there all the time

A poem anyone could have written before someone did.


doesn't sweat the small stuff

The translator takes faith in the universals (ocean, hunger, love, etc.) and lets the trivial matters tied to time or place take care of themselves or fall away.


seed word

What was the ‘seed word’ of the poem?


state of the art

The poetry book was carried in a brown paper sack that he’d raise to eyes now and again for a little peek.


how it happens

The old woman came from Myli with a basket of tomatoes so she could enter my poem.

--Yannis Ritsos, from "Monochords," translated by Paul Merchant
In Pieces: an anthology of fragmentary writing, edited by Olivia Dresher, Impassio Press 2006.


tics not techniques

Eccentric capitalization or breaking the line within a word seem more like tics than poetic techniques.


book of forms: pantoum

A pantoum has the formal virtue of when you've read it once, it feels like you've read it twice. Or as Yogi Berra put it, "It's déjà vu all over again." But everyone should write one (and I mean that...just once is more than enough).


series of quotes

In time a good book will become a series of quotes.


resplendent poetry

Words dynamically arrayed—resplendent poetry. (thinking of Olson)


rope ladder

Climbing on words like a rope ladder, the poem must proceed by itself and complete itself. It is not that easy, slowly, very slowly.

—George Seferis, A Poet’s Journal: Days of 1945-1951, The Belknap Press (Harvard U. Press), 1974, translated by Athan Anagnostopoulos