trained growth

Structure and language: trellis and vine.


narrative coming through

Certain stories are instant poetry: The words must simply get out of the way of the telling.


schoolyard scuffle

It was The School of Quietude vs. The Rest is Noise.


it's that simple

Subject enacted, language exacted.


no ambition at all

I shall never forget one autumn evening in the tiny office of T.S. Eliot at Faber and Faber’s the voice of the poet of the Quartets ending our conversation about Valéry: “He was so intelligent that he had no ambition at all.”

—George Seferis, in his preface to Igor Stravinsky’s Poetics of Music (Harvard Univ. Press, 1942)


got your backside covered

Blurbs are applied to the backsides of books because that's the place for butt-lickers.


dada dead end

Veered down a dada dead end.


poem not diploma

At the end of an MFA in Poetry, they shouldn’t give you a diploma. They should hand you a framed copy of the one poem you’re willing to call an emblem of your literary merit.


template theory

He had a template theory to drop over any text.


here yet be dragons

here yet be dragons

so many languages have fallen
off the edge of the world
into the dragon’s mouth. some

where there be monsters whose teeth
are sharp and sparkle with lost

people. lost poems. who
among us can imagine ourselves
unimagined? who

among us can speak with so fragile
tongue and remain proud?

—Lucille Clifton (1936-2010)
Blessing the Boats, New and Selected Poems 1988-2000 (Boa Editions, 2000)


armed to the teeth

Poet, come armed to the teeth with words when confronting the page.

The Second Edition of the Oxford English Dictionary contains full entries for 171,476 words in current use, and 47,156 obsolete words. To this may be added around 9,500 derivative words included as subentries. Over half of these words are nouns, about a quarter adjectives, and about a seventh verbs; the rest is made up of interjections, conjunctions, prepositions, suffixes, etc. These figures take no account of entries with senses for different parts of speech (such as noun and adjective).

This suggests that there are, at the very least, a quarter of a million distinct English words, excluding inflections, and words from technical and regional vocabulary not covered by the OED, or words not yet added to the published dictionary, of which perhaps 20 per cent are no longer in current use. If distinct senses were counted, the total would probably approach three quarters of a million.

[quoted from AskOxford.com]


syntactic scar

A syntactic inversion in a poem is like a language scar. Most are crude reminders of a severe wound, but like scars some do have a strange attraction.


loose ends

A poetry made from language’s loose ends.



I estimate it would take a stadium seating about 100,000 to contain all the contemporary poets*. What a compelling cacophony it would be if they all stood at once and began to recite their poems.

*US only, actively publishing/performing


prison release

There comes a point always, in painting a picture, when it becomes a prison; I long to get away from it, to be quit of it forever, yet the only release, with a clear conscience, must come from carrying it thru.

—Charles Burchfield

Charles Burchfield’s Journals, The Poetry of Place, edited by J. Benjamin Townsend (State University of New York Press, 1993)


protracted block

Stalked by a man from Porlock.


the bear fishing

When I think of Charles Olson’s poetics I think of how a bear fishes for salmon during the spawning run. There is a lot splashing about, paws swiping at the rushing waters, headlong lunging into the shallows, but some nice fish do get caught.


gray crowd

If MFA programs are attracting so many eager young poets, why is it that the audience at so many poetry readings is filled with graying elders?


deep divide

Controversies about the smallest of poems (e.g. Saroyan’s ‘lighght’) tell one a lot about the deep divide in poetic sensibility.