not a pretty sight

Representation that sears the gauze onto reality.


one step ahead

Trust that the reader gets what you’re after just before you do.


military parade

Why do all those regular stanzas remind me of a military parade?


after heraklitas

One can’t wade into the same line of poetry twice.


at the back of the mind

Muse poetry is composed at the back of the mind: an unaccountable product of a trance in which the emotions of love, fear, anger, or grief are profoundly engaged, though at the same time powerfully disciplined; in which intuitive thought reigns supralogically, and personal rhythm subdues metre to its purposes. The effect on the readers of Muse poetry, which its opposite poles of ecstasy and melancholia, is what the French call a frisson, and the Scots call a ‘grue’—meaning the shudder provoked by fearful or supernatural experiences.

—Robert Graves, “The Dedicated Poet,” Oxford Addresses on Poetry (Doubleday & Co., 1962)


too thinned

A poem pared to air.


house slippers

The lines padded along in soft iambs as though written in house slippers.


years of mystical thinking

So much mysticism surrounds ‘the linebreak’ in free verse poetics.


storied song

A lyric clad in narrative.


prose poem

Prose poem: A poem comfortable with the right margin.


empire of chimeras

Horace was not one of these who believe that the caprice of the poet suffers no law above itself. In modern times, Young sounded the tocsin of Pseudo-Romanticism, when he declared that “in the fairy-land of fancy genius may wander wild; there it has a creative power, and may reign arbitrarily over its own empire of chimeras.” The poet, indeed, can create a world of his own, and, if he is endowed with the true genius of the poet, can insure our belief in his creation. But, even the poet must not offend our sense of congruity by endeavouring to unite things that are essentially incompatible. Horace would have no sympathy with the false Romanticism which could bring into being a world of chimeras having no conceivable relation with existing experience. Such things he would regard as the fevered dreams of a diseased imagination. He would thus look askance at the riot of imagination, and the unfettered play of emotion, which many regard as the divine prerogative of poets.

In a later passage of the Ars Poetica, he seems to go still further, when he insists that the poet’s fictions be “proxima veris.” [435-436]

—J. F. D’Alton, Roman Literary Theory & Criticism (Russell & Russell, 1962)


no middleground

A metaphor that wouldn’t meet halfway.


kitchen sink songs

Just another kitchen-sink Cantos.


experience shaped

Experience shaped expression. Too much poetry is written from the realm of reading.



Critic without a cause.


what mattered

It was not important that [the poems] survive.
What mattered was that they should bear
Some lineament or character,

Some affluence, if only half-perceived,
In the poverty of their words,
Of the planet of which they were part.

—Wallace Stevens, from “The Planet On The Table”


shadow presence

Metaphor: from the shadow of a thing emerges another thing long hidden.


sink hole

A line that stepped unsurely over its caesura.



His ideal reader died.


free radical

In chemistry the ‘radical’ (e.g., an atom without a paired electron) tends to be very reactive. We try to find certain words that have an unpaired electron, so to speak, that will attract and create the reaction that is metaphor, two things binding as they react to (and against) one another and if not creating a chemical reaction per se, creating a strong mental or emotional response in us.