lost count

When I turned back to reread the line, I was surprised to find it had fewer words than I’d remembered.


erotics of art

Our task is not to find the maximum amount of content in a work of art, much less to squeeze more content out of the work than is already there. Our task is to cut back content so that we can see the thing at all.

The aim of all commentary on art now should be to make works of art—and, by analogy, our own experience—more, rather than less, real to us. The function of criticism should be to show how it is what it is, even that it is what it is, rather than to show what it means.

In place of hermeneutics we need an erotics of art.

—Susan Sontag, “Against Interpretation” (1964)


scorn the collector

Only scorn for the collector who acquires a book he would never have read when it first came out but purchases now because of its rarity and material value.


cracks in the wall

cracks in the walls
black spells
flayed phrases
unfortunate poems

Alejandra Pizarnik (1936-1972) from "Los Pequeños Cantos," translated by John Martone, from Damn The Cæsars (Vol. 5, 2009)



Even though unreciprocated, my love of poetry remains absolute, pure.


sea wrack

The tideline on a beach as model for a line of poetry.


don't flatter yourself

The theorist who puts ‘capitalism’ and ‘poetry’ in the same sentence (paragraph or book) is clearly delusional. Capitalism doesn’t concern itself with non-monetary enterprises.


long poem logistics

In most long poems the poet outruns his supply lines.


reading ratio

I’ve started thousands of books, but have only finished hundreds.


substitution of terms

Painting is a philosophical enterprise that doesn’t always involve paint.

—Howard Halle, "Photo-unrealism," Time Out New York, December 30, 1999-January 6, 2000, 55-56, quoted in Douglas Fogle, Painting at the Edge of the World, exhibition catalogue, Walker Art Center, Minneapolis, 2001, 18. [n.b.: I first encountered this quote on the wall of an exhibit at Museum of Contemporary Art-Chicago, some years ago.]

Poetry is a philosophical enterprise that doesn't always involve the poetic line.


rococo musings

A poet much too much impressed by his rococo musings. (Thinking of John Ashbery.)


time stain

A poem tainted by its times.


image of note

Outside the youth center, between the liquor store
and the police station,
a little dogwood tree is losing its mind;

overflowing with blossomfoam,
like a sudsy mug of beer;
like a bride ripping off her clothes,

dropping snow white petals to the ground in clouds,

—Tony Hoagland, from "A Color of the Sky," What Narcissism Means to Me (Graywolf Press, 2003)



Not a small press, an intermittent press.


self proof

First the lyric poet must prove to herself the efficacy of her utterance. No one will be won over by an uncommitted voice.


long hall

A poem with a long, elaborately decorated foyer.



all in

Poet, methodically stack your lines, then push all in.


discarded word

The word the rhetoricians rejected has become the poem’s cornerstone. (after Psalm 118:22)


dysfunctional workshop

The Dysfunctional Workshop: Dramatis Personae

Paula Tico: Even in your poem about your dead cat she felt you failed to see the complicity of or to indict global capitalism for its insidious influence on the pet food industry.

Dick Tum: He cannot critique a poem without dragging out an old saw. He folds his arms, leans back in his chair and intones “I think it was Coleridge who said, ‘best words in the best order’, and in this poem…,” or “William Carlos Williams famously had it, ‘No ideas but in things’, and your poem is full of…”

Polly Wanzakraker: She practically sits on the workshop leader’s shoulder and repeats verbatim what he/she has just said.

Ed Itur: He always reads with a red pen in his hand. The only thing he has to say about your poem is that you spelled ‘feign’ wrong or your last line is a sentence fragment.

Buzz Cutt: When he clears his throat to speak you can hear a chainsaw starting up. His terse solution for every poem is to shave off the first 10 lines and to hack off the last 5 while you’re at it.

Di Gress: She’ll tease out one line after another that reminds her of a story or any topic she happens to be thinking about, which leads to that, then this, then that again…

Otis Grande: Praising you past embarrassment, he loves your poem, he loves everything you have written and everything you will ever write.

Ben Daredundat: He can always find one of his poems that your poem reminds him of and he’ll quote long passages of his poem to prove the point.

Art Istek: With his head down, scribbling furiously, he says little during workshop. Afterwards he hands back your poem almost blotted out with arrows and diagrams, the margins filled with elaborate graffiti. You save the copy in case he becomes famous one day.

[Feel free to add your own characters.]


ladder to earth

Poem like a ladder let down from heaven to earth.


inside / outside

What part of a poem's value inheres to the work itself, and how much has accrued by virtue of years of critical attention?