not what is seen

The underside of a leaf
Cool in shadow
Sublimely unemphatic
Smiling of innocence

The frailest stems
Quivering in light
Bend and break
In silence

This poem like the paintings, is not really about nature. It is not what is seen. It is what is known forever in the mind.

—Agnes Martin, "Notes," Writings / Schriften (Kunstmuseum Winterthur / Edition Cantz, 1992) edited by Herausgegeben von Dieter Schwarz


no compromise

To not compromise the poetry through the fit and finish of composition.


welcoming community

The heckler at the poetry reading was invited to come back next week to enter the slam.


small chevalier

Lowering one’s flimsy lance, charging uphill at the literary windmill of the great poet’s reputation. But no one’s inside anyway, and you look small due to scale.


dazzle draft

Unable to see beyond the dazzle of the first draft.


concealed criticism

When one speaks of criticism, one is generally thinking of prose. But, when we speak of Arnold’s criticism, it is necessary to widen the scope of one’s observation; for he was never more essentially a critic than when he concealed the true character of his method in the guise of poetry. Even if we decline to accept his strange judgment that all poetry “is at bottom a criticism of life,” still we must perceive that, as a matter of fact, many of his own poems are as essentially critical as his Essays or his Lectures.

—G.W.E. Russell, Matthew Arnold (Chas. Scribner’s Sons, 1904)


oh too pleased

A reader a little oh too pleased with his poetry.


hit it

From the first line the poem was pedal down.


orator extraordinaire

Slam poet, be a superhero whose power is oratory.


sharp salient

A poem spiked on the salient of a single line.


few or many

There are poets who readily have a few poems that speak for them, that make their reputations, and then there are those poets who exist only in oeuvre, only after reading the body of work can one see fully their achievement.


weather report

There is a weather report in almost every folk poem. The sun is shining; it was snowing; the wind was blowing…The folk poet knows that it’s wise to immediately establish the connection between the personal and the cosmic.

—Charles Simic, The Monster Loves His Labyrinth: Notebooks (Ausable Press, 2008)


cease and desestina

A cease and desestina order had to be issued against the rime-crazed poet.


post-facto ticket

Poetry readings are often free admission. When you buy the poet’s book on the way out, it’s sort of like purchasing a post facto ticket.


fit for song

A poem that would have to dumb itself down before it could become a song.


holy icon

An image with the aura of a holy icon.



       When the Chinese made
a circle of stones on the top of their wells
one would be a little skewed to make the circle
look more round. Irregularity is the secret
of music and to the voice of great poetry.

—Jack Gilbert
from “The Secret,” The Dance Most of All (Alfred A. Knopf, 2009)


acceptable poem

My poem was accepted. It’s perfectly acceptable, if unexceptional. The poem has mastered the secret handshake and matches well with editorial tastes. The poem thus conforms to the fashions of the times, securing its acceptability into the good company of its fellow poems. In other words, my poem goes along to get along.


only poetry

When everything is stripped away, as after a disaster, and one is left with nothing but language, then, then one has poetry.


lost count of

How many poems have I lost to alcohol or sloth?


against is all

They who can’t define their art other than in antithesis.