unfounded sounds

No reason but for sound they should have entered my mind together: The Clash’s “London Calling” and Jack London’s “The Call of the Wild.”


break silence

A poem that could make a Cistercian break silence.


so over

The moment it was a movement it was over.


spot in the iris

263. Imagine someone pointing to a spot in the iris in a face by Rembrandt and saying, “the wall in my room should be painted this colour.”

—Ludwig Wittgenstein
Remarks on Colour, edited by G.E.M. Anscombe.
Translated by Linda L. McAlister & Margarete Schättle.
(U. of California Press)


good shave

Faced with scraggly and unkempt poetry one is tempted to reach for Ockham’s razor to give it a good shave.


desperate struggle

The poem is a desperate struggle between release and resolve.



Caught between a block and a blank place.



The commonplace observed closely from an odd angle.


not a luxury

I speak here of poetry as a revelatory distillation of experience, not the sterile word play that, too often, the white fathers distorted the word poetry to mean—in order to cover a desperate wish for imagination without insight.

For women, then, poetry is not a luxury. It is a vital necessity of our existence. It forms the quality of the light within which we predicate our hopes and dreams toward survival and change, first made into language, then into idea, then into more tangible action. Poetry is the way we help give name to the nameless so it can be thought. The farthest horizons of our hopes and fears are cobbled by our poems, carved from the rock experiences of our daily lives.

—Audre Lorde, “Poetry Is Not A Luxury,” Lofty Dogmas: Poets on Poetics (U. of Arkansas Press, 2005), edited by Deborah Brown, Annie Finch and Maxim Kumin


word horde

Poet, be a great Khan of language, gathering your word horde just over the horizon of consciousness.


purified speech

A form of purified speech that is not a prayer.


beautiful labyrinth

In 2004 Raymond Danowski donated 75,000 volumes of poetry to the Emory University library. Reports at the time said the collection would fill several tractor-trailers. I want to get lost in those stacks someday and not come out of that beautiful labyrinth for about a year.


ink or pixels

In ink or pixels, it’s all the same.


café captive

The poet did his writing in a café and there, too, he read his work aloud.


purity and economy

Nothing on the page had the purity and economy of the whole number tucked away along the lower margin.


not obscure but a blur

[Browning] is something too much the reverse of obscure; he is too brilliant and subtle for the ready reader of a ready writer to follow with any certainty the track of an intelligence which moves with such incessant rapidity, or even to realize with what spider-like swiftness and sagacity his building spirit leaps and lightens to and fro and backward and forward as it lives along the animated line of its labor, springs from thread to thread and darts from centre to circumference of the glittering and quivering web of living thought woven from the inexhaustible stores of his perception and kindled from the inexhaustible fire of his imagination. He never thinks but at full speed; and the rate of his thought is to that of another man’s as the speed of a railway to that of a wagon or the speed of a telegraph to that of a railway It is hopeless to enjoy the charm or to apprehend the gist of his writing except with a mind thoroughly alert, an attention awake to all points, a spirit open and ready to be kindled by the contact…

—Algernon Charles Swinburne, “Browning’s obscurity,” 1875, reprinted Swinburne as Critic edited by Clyde K. Hyder (Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1972)


all true translations

I read three translations of the poem, and all in their own way were perfectly true.


needed a Nietzsche

Whether poetics needed a Nietzsche or not, it got one in the form of Ezra Pound.


original vispo

Certainly the first visual poetry arose by accident in palimpsest.


semantic drift

Poetry is the wind behind semantic drift.


thought for a new year

Poets are always ready to talk about the difficulties of their art. I want to say something about its rewards and joys. The poem comes in the form of a blessing—"like rapture breaking on the mind," as I tried to phrase it in my youth. Through the years I have found this gift of poetry to be life-sustaining, life-enhancing, and absolutely unpredictable. Does one live, therefore, for the sake of poetry? No, the reverse is true: poetry is for the sake of the life.

—Stanley Kunitz, from the preface to Passing Through (Norton, 1995)